A 30-old-man was charged Tuesday with shooting and killing a protected northern elephant seal on a California beach, federal prosecutors said.
Jordan Gerbich, of Santa Maria, faces one count of taking a marine mammal, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
It wasn't immediately known if Gerbich has an attorney.
The elephant seal was found dead from a gunshot to the head on a beach near San Simeon last September.
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The area is popular viewing area along the central coast where visitors can observe the enormous seals, which can weigh more than 1,000 pounds (455 kilograms). The animals are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
If convicted of the misdemeanor offense, Gerbich could face a maximum sentence of one year in federal prison, officials said.
Investigators did not name a possible motive for the shooting.
The case was investigated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.