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*June 10, 2011, 3:30pm update: IFAW identifies 6th shot seal in the same geographic locations as the others.
(NECN: Alysha Palumbo, Dennisport, MA) - Seals being hunted along the shores of the cape – and the predator is not what you might think.
While gray seals already have to worry about sharks, the International Fund for Animal Welfare – or IFAW – says its experts believe *humans* have been shooting them.
Stranding Coordinator Sarah Sharp with IFAW's Marine Mammal Rescue and Research Team said, “Within the last six weeks through our regular stranding response activities here on Cape Cod we found five different adult grey seals, sub-adult grey seals as well that have been shot.”
Sharp says the dead seals have been found on Nantucket Sound side beaches between Dennis and Chatham.
“So we brought them back and did more extensive testing in the lab and a CT scan to confirm those were indeed gunshots to the animals, and unfortunately in this case it’s actually looks like those bullet wounds caused the animals’ deaths,” said Sharp.
Sharp says over the past 12 years they’ve only seen half a dozen of these cases, so to see so many seals shot in such a short period of time is troubling to them.
“It’s really hard to see, a lot of times these animals don’t necessarily die right away from these wounds and so they do suffer,” said Sharp.
She says IFAW doesn’t know why someone would shoot these gray seals and leave them to die, but it is illegal and they can be prosecuted.
Evidence in these cases is currently being analyzed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations’ Special Agents to see if they can make any arrests.
Sharp said, “To see these animals and know that it’s something that other humans have done it’s just really tough, and so we’re hoping that this investigation does lead to an end to this.”
If you have any information on these seal shootings, you're asked to call NOAA's Special Agents at 508-990-8752.