Man faces prison for shooting dead elephant seal on California beach

Culprit faces a maximum of one year in jail

Matt Mathers
Thursday 24 December 2020 10:57 GMT
Northern elephant seals are protected under federal law
Northern elephant seals are protected under federal law (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
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A man who shot an elephant seal dead on a California beach last year faces prison.

Jordan Gerbich, 30, on Monday pleaded guilty to killing the mammal on the coast of San Simeon in September.

Northern elephant seals are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.  

It was not immediately clear why the 30-year-old killed the seal.  

But Mr Gerbich did admit that he drove to an elephant seal viewing area in San Simeon on 28 September, the US Attorney's Office for the Central District of California said in a statement.

He visited the spot near Piedras Blancas Marine Reserve, carrying a flashlight and was armed with a .45-caliber pistol.

Mr Gerbich shot the seal while it rested on the beach.  

It was found the following day with a bullet hole in its head.

The mammal had been cut open and had its tail fins removed, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.  

At the time, the agency offered a $20,000 reward for information in the killing.

Mr Gerbich confessed to NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement after his home was searched in January, according to court documents.

US district judge Dale S. Fischer has scheduled a sentencing hearing for 12 April 2021.

Mr Gerbich is charged with one count of taking a marine mammal and faces a maximum of one year in jail.

According to the NOAA, commercial hunting almost pushed northern elephant seals to extinction around 1900.

Their numbers have since recovered, the agency added.

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