KEY POINTS

  • The man shot the marine mammal in the head using his handgun
  • He was sentenced to three months in prison
  • Elephant seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act

A man in California has been sentenced to prison after he fatally shot an elephant seal because a friend challenged him to do so.

Jordan Gerbich shot the marine mammal in the head using his handgun on Sept. 28, 2019. He was with a friend near San Simeon on the central coast of California at the time. He was sentenced to three months in prison Monday by a U.S. district judge.

The man's attorney, in a court document before the sentencing, said his client was shocked because of the strange and disturbing nature of the crime, reported NBC News. He said Gerbich had a history of substance abuse and had to go through physical abuse during his childhood, which left him with a desire to always seek approval.

Gerbich's friend, who was with him when the crime happened, had asked him to kill the elephant seal as some sort of a challenge. During the hearing, prosecutors said the elephant seal's death wasn't an accident or something that happened on a whim. The duo knew that elephant seals would be there in the area and they even brought a handgun with them, they told the court.

Gerbich used a flashlight to shoot the elephant seal as it was dark at the time. The seal's carcass was found with a bullet wound in its head and its tail fins cut off, according to the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Apart from spending three months in prison, Gerbich will have to serve three months of home detention and one year on supervision after his release. He has to participate in community service for 120 hours. A fine of $1,000 was also slapped on Gerbich,  according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

Northern elephant seals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Commercial hunting almost caused the species to become extinct in the 1900s. However, the elephant seal population has improved since then, according to the NOAA.

prison-553836_640 Prison Photo: Pixabay