A drastic uptick in sea lion deaths along the coast of Washington has one wildlife welfare group worried.
Thirteen sea lions have been killed since September, including six from gunshot wounds, according to the Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network. The other seven died of acute trauma, likely due to human interactions.
Earlier this month, one animal washed ashore with its head cut off.
“Sadly, this is just the beginning of what is likely to be a very deadly fall/winter season for sea lions and seals,” Robin Lindsey, of the Seal Sitters, wrote online.
“Shootings not so coincidentally increase in correlation with fish runs, year-round. According to those who live and work along the Elliott Bay and Duwamish waterfront, shots are being heard even more frequently this year. Animals searching for food to survive and fishermen searching out fish for consumption or livelihood are on an annual, never-ending collision course.”
The 13 sea lion deaths between September and November is about six times the yearly average, according to Seal Sitters, with more expected between December and February.
Another marine conservation group, Sea Shepherd Seattle, is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for shooting the sea lions, according to KING 5.
California sea lions, which were once on the brink of extinction, passed 250,000 in 2014 after a low of less than 90,000 in 1975.