Locals on Vancouver Island are concerned at what's been washing up on the shore. One resident has reported several times when they found B.C. sea lions headless on the coast. It's not the first time this has ever happened, but it's happening more and more.

Nanaimo resident Deborah Short told Global News that, between Friday, March 20 and Wednesday, June 10 that she's found five different headless sea lion bodies.

"I was completely and utterly devastated, shocked," she said. "I couldn't believe that I was even looking at something of that nature."

After reporting her findings online, she's since heard from others that noticed the same thing, with carcasses washing up from Nanaimo to Campbell River.

"To me, this looks intentional, whether it's by a single person or a group of people," told marine mammal zoologist Anna Hall to CTV News.

The sea lions identified in the pictures appeared to be Steller sea lions, a species at risk in Canada, Hall continued. All Canadian marine mammals are protected under the Fisheries Act, and this species is even more special because it's considered at-risk.

Tom Sewid, president of Pacific Balance Marine Management added to Global News that sea lion skulls could fetch prices of more than $1,000 on the black market.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) told CBC that they were aware of the issue. However, they also said it was a "fairly common occurrence." As of late, there has been a "slight increase" in the incidents. 

"DFO's Conservation and Protection Branch are aware of pinniped-related social media activities and are monitoring these closely," they said.

"Typically, the animals are washed up intact," continued the DFO, explaining that tampering with the beached animal's body to hide evidence counts as a criminal offence.

Narcity has reached out to Short and the DFO for comment and we will update this story when we receive a response.

Short reports feeling "devastated" that something like this is still happening, and said there should be more done to protect the animals.

"I'm heartbroken. I'm devastated by it," she said to CBC. "And I want to see stronger laws for protection of our seals and sea lions along our coast."

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