3 protected elephant seals shot dead in Calif. rookery

Wildlife investigators are searching for suspects in the shooting deaths this weekend of three elephant seals near San Simeon, Calif., an attack that may be connected to the shooting of six sea lions in Oregon along the Columbia River.

The killings took place in the Piedras Blancas rookery, about 12 miles north of Cambria, Calif., on Highway 1, sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning. Docents with Friends of the Elephant Seal discovered the slaughtered animals Saturday morning and reported the incident to authorities.

Elephant seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and disturbing one of the seals is a federal offense. Injuring or killing an elephant seal can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. A violation of the law can result in civil penalties of up to $12,000, criminal fines of up to $20,000 and jail time.

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