Harbor seals shot on Douglas

Feds offer $2,500 for any information

Posted: Friday, March 10, 2006

Two harbor seals were shot several weeks ago at Outer Point on Douglas Island, and on Thursday federal investigators offered up to $2,500 for information.

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One of the dead seals was found next to the Outer Point trail by a Juneau hiker, said Beth Mathews, University of Alaska Southeast marine biologist. Mathews learned about the seal from the hiker in a phone call. But when a federal biologist attempted to locate the carcass, it had washed out on the high tide, Mathews said.

The first carcass appeared to the hiker to be a fresh one, with blood issuing from its nose, Mathews said.

Mathews had little information about the second carcass, which reportedly had been stripped of its flesh, with the head removed.

Alaska Natives are allowed to hunt and kill harbor seals with guns, except in Glacier Bay National Park, Mathews said. Winter is a good time to hunt because the seals are fatter, she added.

The shootings may have occurred during the second week of February, according to a Thursday press release from the National Marine Fisheries Service's Office for Law Enforcement.

It is unusual for two harbor seals to be "struck and lost" within the same area within a week, let alone just a few days of each other, said Mathews, who specializes in harbor seal research.

Federal law enforcement officers did not respond to a Thursday afternoon phone call seeking comment.

The reward is conditioned on information that leads to an arrest, conviction, civil penalty or other penalties for the violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to the press release.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act protects seals, sea lions, whales and other species from harassment. Under the 1972 law, it is illegal to harass, shoot, chase or feed marine mammals in the wild.

Civil penalties can be up to $12,000, criminal fines can cost $20,000 and imprisonment is also possible.

Anyone with information about the shootings is asked to contact a special agent at (907) 586-7225 or the Office for Law Enforcement hotline at (800) 853-1964.

• Elizabeth Bluemink can be reached at elizabeth.bluemink@juneauempire.com.

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