In an effort to find the killers responsible for the bludgeoning deaths of 50 seal pups on Prince Edward Island, the Humane Society International of Canada is offering a $5,000 reward, according to The Canadian Press.
A necropsy was performed on 10 grey seal pups. All had severely fractured skulls, said Pierre-Yves Daoust, a wildlife pathologist at the Atlantic Veterinary College on Prince Edward Island.
There was no evidence of metal fragments, which means that the seals were not shot, he said.
All of the pups were only a few weeks old and were still nursing, and some even had milk in their stomachs, said Daoust in an alternate interview with The Ottawa Citizen.
The pups weren’t killed as part of a seal hunt, he noted.
“It’s very possible that some of the animals were not killed quickly,” Daoust said. “It certainly was not done by professional sealers.”
“This was a vicious, cruel act and the seals suffered horribly,” said Rebecca Aldworth, Executive Director of HSI in a press release. “Studies show there is a clear link between cruelty to animals and violence against people.”
Aldworth said she hopes the reward will spur people to come forward if they have information about the perpetrators of this horrible act.
Donations from concerned citizens and board members of the Humane Society of The United States made it possible to raise the reward from $1000 to $5000, The Canadian Press reported.
A group of college students who were working in the area at the time discovered the horrible scene. Just one day earlier, the students had watched the seals on the beach.
Grey seals live a rather gregarious lifestyle, gathering together to breed and to give birth, according to The Seal Conservation Society.
The animals are found on both sides of the Atlantic, and, in Canada, the breeding season stretches from mid-December to early February. Breeding colonies are called rookeries, and seals may choose a variety of places to give birth. Rock-strewn islands and coasts, caves, sandy islands, and, depending upon the location, ice floes, the Society reported.
When they are born, grey seal pups have thick, cream-colored fur. At two to four weeks old, they moult and their fur begins to resemble that of the adults. The young animals nurse for about 18 days, and, towards the end of this period, the mother seal mates with one or more males. When the pup is weaned, she heads back to the sea, according to the Society.
Pups remain at the rookery for a while longer, living off blubber reserves until they have completely moulted the white fur. When it’s time to leave the beach behind, the young seals disperse widely and have been known to travel distances of more than 1,000 miles.
Grey seals feed on a wide variety of fish and crustaceans, the Society reported.
Canada’s yearly commercial seal hunt is the largest slaughter of marine mammals on the planet, according to The Humane Society of The United States (HSUS).
In the past five years, it’s estimated that more than 1 million seals have been slaughtered during these annual hunts, HSUS reports. It’s likely that the actual number of seals killed is considerably higher than the number reported.
Many seals are often shot and wounded during these hunts, and studies suggest that a significant number of these animals slip beneath the water. They die slowly and are never recovered, HSUS reports.
According to The Canadian Press, it is illegal to interfere with marine mammals in Canada without lawful authority, and, under Canada’s Criminal Code, it’s illegal to cause animals unnecessary suffering.
HSI is calling for the persons who committed this horrible act of cruelty to be prosecuted under the fullest extent of the law.