ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Federal officials are saying several of the 15 Stellar sea lions found dead last week near Cordova had wounds indicating they had been “deliberately killed.”
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration spokesman Julie Speegle said Thursday that some of the deaths appeared to be caused by humans, reported The Alaska Dispatch News (http://bit.ly/1QREXHE).
“We have not seen an incident that involved this many animals at once, probably, for decades,” Speegle said.
The agency received a report of the dead sea lions on June 1. Speegle said the animals’ bodies were found near Softuk Bar, about 45 miles southeast of Cordova.
NOAA biologists and enforcement agents visited the remote Alaska beach and found 15 of the endangered animals dead. The sea lions had been discovered in various stages of decomposition.
Speegle said NOAA officials took samples from all the animals and performed necropsies on some.
Three to five of the sea lions had wounds indicating they had been “deliberately killed,” Speegle said. It appeared that nothing was harvested from the sea lions and no nets were found, she said.
The Steller sea lions were among the western stock of the population. According to NOAA, between 1990 and 2000, the western stock declined by 40 percent.
In 1997, the western stock was declared endangered. Killing sea lions in the western stock population is illegal under both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act.