It was a criminal offence if someone knowingly tampered with the dead sea mammal by removing its head.
That’s according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans following Wednesday’s disturbing discovery of a large sea lion found washed ashore on a beach at Boundary Bay in South Delta.
Its head had been removed but it’s not clear yet how, or when, it occurred.
DFO conservation officers attended to investigate but it was up to the City of Delta to remove the carcass.
A DFO spokesperson told the Optimist that reports of dead sea lions washing up on shore, particularly on Vancouver Island, is a fairly common occurrence, and in cases of natural sea lion death, it is not uncommon for them to end up on beaches and shorelines.
Typically, the animals are washed up intact, however, from time-to-time individuals may tamper with the animals once beached.
If this is determined to have been done with the Boundary Bay sea lion, such a tampering of evidence would be an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, the DFO notes.
Specifically, if it is determined that the head had been cut off, that may mean a potential violation under the Marine Mammals Regulations and that the death may not be a natural occurrence.
The DFO also warns that due to health and other concerns, it is highly recommended that the public refrain from handling the dead carcasses of any wild animals.
That includes marine sea lions that can transmit deadly bacteria to humans and other animals.
The DFO notes that one way British Columbians can help protect the fisheries is to stop violations before they happen.
If you see an offence, think ORR: Observe, Record, Report and call toll-free: 1-800-465-4336, or email: DFO.ORR-ONS.MPO@dfo-mpo.gc.ca. Visit the ORR webpage for more info.