An unexpected culprit is decapitating baby seals along the California coast (SFGate)

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    An unexpected culprit is decapitating baby seals along the California coast – By Amanda Bartlett (SFGate) / Dec 30, 2023

    ‘Maybe this behavior isn’t super new … people just haven’t been looking for it’

    Earlier this spring, researchers discovered a grisly scene in the sand at MacKerricher State Park near Fort Bragg in Northern California.

    Ice plants spattered with blood indicated there had been some kind of a scuffle just a few feet away from the crashing waves. Though paw prints still covered the beach, the unknown predator was long gone. What remained was the carcass of a harbor seal pup, its head completely gnawed off.

    “It’s somewhat gruesome,” said Frankie Gerraty, a Ph.D. student at the University of California, Santa Cruz who has been studying the phenomenon with cameras set up along the California coastline. “We realized there are a handful of sites where harbor seal pups are dying at unusually high rates with distinct patterns of mortality. And for a while, it was really a mystery as to what was going on.”

    Sightings like this have been occurring as far back as 2015, according to Sarah Grimes, stranding coordinator for the Noyo Center for Marine Science in Mendocino County, who said she’s recorded a dozen or more dead, headless seals per year at MacKerricher State Park alone.

    CONTINUE > https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/coyotes-hunting-seals-along-california-coast-18578337.php

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