Someone Killed a Pregnant Seal by Shooting It Through the Heart With a Rifle

A pregnant seal was brutally killed after someone deliberately shot it in the heart with a rifle, a post-mortem has revealed.

The animal was found on a riverbank alongside another dead pregnant seal on January 7 this year in the English county of Essex by local wildlife tour operator Tony Haggis, the BBC reported. Both creatures appeared to have suffered bullet wounds.

After the discovery of the bodies, local conservation groups spoke out against the killings and launched an appeal to find those responsible.

One of the carcasses was sent to the U.K. Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme (CSIP)—part of the Zoological Society of London—so that it could be dissected. The post-mortem confirmed that this seal had been killed deliberately, shot while it was lying face upwards on a sandbank, Metro reported.

"The examination found the cause of death to be consistent with shooting, with a single entry wound between the fore flippers," read a report by Rob Deaville from the CSIP. "The bullet had penetrated part of the heart and the edge of the left lung. The bullet was recovered during the examination and appeared to be largely intact. It was provisionally identified as a .22 caliber from the width and has been retained.

"This adult seal was in very good nutritional condition at death and was also pregnant with a two to three month term fetus," Deaville said. "It had been reported stranded along with another common seal and various reports linked the deaths to shooting."

While it is not clear who killed the seals, conservation groups say that anglers may be responsible. It is possible that the animals could have been interfering with their fishing activities, they say.

After the killings, conservation charity Sea Shepherd U.K. offered a reward of £3,000 ($3,750) to anyone who could provide information, photos or videos that could lead to a prosecution of those involved.

"It's so sad, I wait 12 months to see the mothers give birth," Haggis told Metro. "We believe four were seen dead in the water by [the] angler but only two were found washed up. Unfortunately they don't have evidence of who did this and it's gone cold. But by being public those who did it know everyone is watching and looking out.

"I try to tell people to keep their distance and not to disturb them, it's very important they are allowed to rest," he said. "It's about respect."

A grey seal pup lays in a hole on the beach on December 5, 2016 in Louth, England. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images