Man sentenced to 3 months in prison for fatally shooting northern elephant seal

LOS ANGELES — A Utah man was sentenced to three months in federal prison for fatally shooting a protected elephant seal last year in California, according to authorities.

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Jordan Gerbich, 30, of Coalville, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office from the Central District of California. Gerbich was also placed on one year of supervised release following the completion of his sentence, according to the release. He also must serve a three-month term of home detention, perform 120 hours of community service, and pay a $1,000 fine.

Gerbich, who lived in Santa Maria, California, at the time of the offense, pleaded guilty in December 2020 to one misdemeanor count of illegally taking a marine mammal, KCBS reported.

According to a federal complaint, Gerbich drove to a viewing area near the Piedras Blancas Marine Reserve and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on Sept. 28, 2019. Authorities said Gerbich used a .45-caliber pistol to shoot the elephant seal, which was resting on the beach, the state attorney’s office said.

The animal was found the next day with a bullet hole in its head, KCBS reported.

“It remains unclear what motivated (Gerbich) to commit such an act; nevertheless, (Gerbich) knew it was wrong,” prosecutors wrote in their sentencing memorandum.

Northern elephant seals are massive animals found along North America’s Pacific coast and are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, according to the state attorney’s office.

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