Man pleads guilty to fatally shooting protected elephant seal near San Simeon: DOJ

California
In this file photo taken Oct. 6, 2013, tourists watch elephant seals basking in the sun on the Piedras Blancas beach near San Simeon, Calif. The Piedras Blancas Marine Reserve rookery, on Highway 1, seven-miles north of San Simeon on the California Central Coast, is home to thousands of elephant seals. (Nick Ut/Associated Press)

In this file photo taken Oct. 6, 2013, tourists watch elephant seals basking in the sun on the Piedras Blancas beach near San Simeon, Calif. The Piedras Blancas Marine Reserve rookery, on Highway 1, seven-miles north of San Simeon on the California Central Coast, is home to thousands of elephant seals. (Nick Ut/Associated Press)

A former Santa Maria resident on Monday pleaded guilty to shooting and killing a protected elephant seal on a beach along California’s Central Coast, federal prosecutors announced Monday.

Jordan Gerbich, 30, pleaded to a “single-count information charging him with taking a marine mammal” as part of a plea agreement, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

Gerbich, who now lives in Utah, faces a statutory maximum sentence of up to a year in federal prison at his sentencing hearing on April 12, 2021.

He admitted to fatally shooting a northern elephant seal with a .45-caliber pistol in an area adjacent to Piedras Blancas Marine Reserve and Monterey Bay National Marine sanctuary near San Simeon, the release stated.

The elephant seal was found with a bullet hole to the head when its carcass was discovered on the beach the following day.

Northern elephant seals, which are found all along North America’s Pacific Coast, are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

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