Federal fisheries police are investigating after five gray seals were found shot to death on Cape Cod.
The Yarmouth-based International Fund for Animal Welfare says the seals were found on beaches from Dennis to Chatham over the last six weeks.
The fund said ballistic evidence is being analyzed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Law Enforcement. A special agent with the office, Todd Nickerson, said the animals had painful deaths and the office is taking the crimes very seriously.
Gray seals are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Their population has boomed in recent years, which has drawn great white sharks to the area to feed on them. The seals are also often blamed for devouring large amounts of fish, reducing the local catch.