BOSTON (Reuters) - A sixth dead gray seal was found shot on a Cape Cod beach on Friday following similar cases in recent weeks, an animal welfare group said.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was carrying out its routine search for stranded marine mammals when it discovered the seals with gunshot wounds.
Five of the seals died from the wounds but the cause of death of the sixth seal had not yet been confirmed, according to IFAW.
Gray seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a federal law prohibiting the harassment and killing of the mammals.
The sea animal killings were being investigated by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's law enforcement team.
For the past 12 years, IFAW has responded to reports of stranded marine mammals including dolphins, whales and seals on Cape Cod beaches and the south coast of Massachusetts, said stranding coordinator Sarah Sharp.
During that time, the group has documented six other cases of gunshot wounds to seals, she said, calling the recent rash of six incidents in such a short time "unprecedented."
(Reporting by Lauren Keiper; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Jerry Norton)