Official: At least 5 sea lions shot near Seattle



Posted on February 12, 2010 at 3:21 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 27 at 3:38 PM

WEST SEATTLE-- The Humane Society is hoping a $2,500 reward will lead to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons reponsible for the shooting death of five sea lions.

On Superbowl Sunday, West Seattle resident William Washington was walking along the beach in front of his home looking for starfish when he found a large sea lion with two puncture wounds to it's head. He snapped photo's of it, and reported the death to local animal officials. Washington can't believe somebody would shoot a sea lion.

"I just think it's terrible," he said. "I think it's very concerning. I think it's sad."

A week later, another mammal was found at Constellation Park near Washington's home.

Since February 1, five sea lions have washed up in West Seattle. All of them had gunshot wounds. A sixth mammal, a harbor seal also washed ashore. Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted necropsies on the marine mammals.

Brian Gorman, spokesperson for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, says evidence points to all of them being shot to death. Bullets have been pulled from five of the six mammals and now investigators are trying to see if the bullets can help solve the case.

"We will be able to tell what kind of weapon they came from and if they are from the same gun," said Gorman.

Federal investigators are trying to figure out the motive.

"It could be anyone for any reason," said Gorman. "It could be a fisherman that objects to what he or she is doing. It could be a property owner that just doesn't like them. It could be anything."

The person convicted of the crime could face a $50,000 fine. It's a violation of the Marine Mammals Protection Act. Because it's a protected species, the shooting death of a Steller sea lion also violated the federal Endangered Species Act.