By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Deborah Moriarty said Friday she had collected data and photos of the dead sea lion found on the Strait of Juan de Fuca side of Ediz Hook near the public restrooms and was set to send the information to the fisheries office in Seattle.
Sea lions are federally protected. Being convicted of killing as sea lion could lead to a fine or possible jail time.
The dead animal had three circular holes in it, Moriarty said.
She declined to speculate on what might have caused them until she learns more from the NOAA analysis.
Kristin Wilkinson, marine mammal stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries in Seattle, said her office relies on volunteers from the marine life center in Port Angeles to respond to reports of dead marine mammals in the area.
Found last week
A local resident had sent an email to the Peninsula Daily News on Wednesday evening saying he and his daughter had come across the sea lion and that it appeared to have three bullet holes in it.
Wilkinson had not heard about the dead sea lion as of Thursday and could not be reached for comment Friday.
But speaking in general, she said holes resembling bullet wounds can form through natural processes.
“Almost perfect circular holes can form during the decomposition or during the scavenger process, and people [can] jump to conclusions or assume there's been some sort of foul play,” Wilkinson said.
If, after initial analysis, bullet wounds are suspected in a marine mammal found dead, she said, the body likely would be X-rayed or a necropsy performed.
California sea lions are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Stellar sea lions are a federally protected under the Endangered Species Act.
In 2010, five sea lions were found shot to death on West Seattle beaches. In that instance, the Humane Society offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest.
Sea lions have proved to be pests in some parts of the Puget Sound. Extensive efforts have been used to prevent them from devouring salmon schooled at the ship locks that lead from Puget Sound into Seattle's Lake Union.
Sea lions have also grown increasingly bold about fishing near Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, where large numbers of salmon protected under the federal Endangered Species Act make their way toward the sea.
The salmon plunder has been so worrisome that the National Marine Fisheries Service has sought in recent years to kill some of the biggest problem predators, in addition to hazing and trapping the animals.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsula