A man will spend three months in prison for shooting an elephant seal in the head. Jordan Gerbich pleaded guilty to one count of illegally taking a marine mammal in December, more than a year after prosecutors said he shot an elephant seal in the head with a .45 caliber pistol as it lounged on a California beach, per ABC News. The incident occurred on Sept. 28, 2019, at an elephant seal viewing area near the Piedras Blancas State Marine Reserve and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The animal, which is protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, was found the next day with a bullet hole in the head. Its chest had also been cut open and its tail cut off, though 30-year-old Gerbich—who has since moved from Santa Maria to Coalville, Utah—wasn't charged with those actions.
The killing was "so unusual and troubling" that Gerbich was shocked, his federal public defender wrote in a court document, which claimed a drunk friend had urged his client to shoot the animal "as a kind of grotesque test," per NBC News. The attorney said Gerbich had a need for approval that stemmed from childhood physical abuse and neglect. But prosecutors said Gerbich seemed purposeful. He'd driven to the scene at night with a handgun and flashlight. He was sentenced to three months in federal prison, to be followed by three months of home confinement. He'll also be on supervised release for one year after his prison release, and he must perform 120 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine, according to the US Attorney's Office for the Central District of California. (Read more elephant seals stories.)