SEATTLE -- Wildlife officials report at least 8 sea lions have been found shot to death in the Puget Sound region in recent weeks.

Both the Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are investigating the deaths. The bodies of seven sea lions were recently found on the Nisqually River, all apparently shot. On Monday, a sea lion was found dead on West Seattle's Lincoln Park beach.

Bullets were found in each of the bodies of the sea lions. A necropsy performed on the sea lion found in West Seattle also revealed the animal endured a shark bite, and had twisted intestines, according to the animal protection group Seal Sitters.

Investigators said they do not know who killed the sea lions. The penalty for poaching a sea lion could range from fees to possible jail time.

One of the sea lions found on theNisqually River was a Stellar sea lion, federally protected under the Endangered Species Act. The one found inWest Seattle was a California sea lion, which are a protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Almost two years ago, five sea lions were found shot to death on West Seattle beaches. In that instance, the Humane Society offerred a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Read or Share this story: