Image Source: Flickr. By: Vic DeLeon.

Some people have no qualms when it comes to killing animals and even less so when those animals are endangered species.

Last Friday, a harbor seal and at least 4 sea lions were shot to death near Seattle. One of the sea lions was an endangered species, known as the Steller Sea Lion. The others were California Sea Lions—smaller in size, but still partially protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act. Spokesman Brian Gorman, of the National Marine Fisheries Service, stated that an investigation was underway. Apparently, it’s illegal (in most cases) to shoot any kind of sea lion or seal and such incidents are punishable with fines up to $50,000.

The Steller Sea Lion was a male between 8 and 10 years of age and weighed approximately 1,200 pounds. Robin Lindsey, a wildlife photographer, said:

“It’s really heartbreaking to think anybody would shoot a creature because they’re out there trying to survive. I hope to god it’s not a trend.”

Lindsey volunteers with a group called Seal Sitters. The group receives calls from federal officials when a seal or sea lion death is reported and Lindsey is the unfortunate soul who usually has to check out and take photos of the animal. However, the work of this awesome group is not always so grim. Along with conservation, education and research efforts, their work defines their name. Seal Sitters will often watch over seal pups that are resting on city beaches while the mother seals go for a swim or fishing excursion.

Another sea lion carcass was found in Puget Sound recently, as well. Gorman explained that it’s common to find at least one dead sea lion in the Seattle area every year; however, 5 deaths is an unusually large number. He also adds that “it’s impossible for us to say right now where these animals were shot, or even if it was one shooter”.

It is possible the animals were dead for a week or 2 before they washed up on shore. Gorman noted that it’s legal to kill a sea lion only if it’s threatening your life or safety. Native American tribes were previously allowed to kill the animals, but those permits are now a thing of the past.

You can help Seal Sitters in a great number of ways (whether you live in the Seattle area or not). Donations are always appreciated and not only in cash form. Supplies and services are also needed. You can also help by contacting your government representative, cleaning up Puget Sound, and more. If you do live in the Seattle area, however, volunteering is always an option.