• Since March, Vancouver Island resident Deborah Short has found five sea lion carcasses without their heads.
  • While no one knows for sure, Seaview Marine Sciences marine mammal zoologist Anna Hall said the decapitations were probably done by humans.
  • "Unless an unusual species of shark has entered the strait, which we don't know about, that has a preference for taking the heads... something unusual is going on in the Strait of Georgia," she told Vice.
  • President of Pacific Balance Marine Management Tom Sewid, who is a member of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation, told The Star that over the last few months he had received at least 120 emails asking about buying sea lion skulls.
  • He said a male skull with all of its teeth could be worth $4,000 (R67,000), and since it's illegal buy them they've become more prolific on the black market.
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Decapitated sea lions have been washing up on the shores of Vancouver Island and no one is entirely sure why.

Since March, Vancouver Island resident Deborah Short has found five sea lion carcasses without their heads, according to CTV News.

"I was devastated, completely devastated by it. I couldn't believe that somebody could sever the head of a sea lion," she said. "It was shocking to me."

Seaview Marine Sciences marine mammal zoologist Anna Hall told CBC she also knew of other headless sea lions washing up on Canadian coastline about 93 miles (149 km) away. Although she didn't say how many.

Hall said she thought at least one of the sea lions found by Short was a Steller sea lion, an at risk species in Canada, and while their predators include sharks and whales, the decapitations were probably done by humans.

"Whilst I have seen many transient killer whale predation events on Steller sea lions, I have not seen them take only the head," she told Vice.

"Unless an unusual species of shark has entered the strait, which we don't know about, that has a preference for taking the heads... something unusual is going on in the Strait of Georgia," she said.

President of Pacific Balance Marine Management Tom Sewid, who is a member of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation and is pushing for indigenous seal hunting, told The Star that over the last few months he had received at least 120 emails from taxidermists asking about buying sea lion skulls.

He told Vice that the seals had not been killed by anyone from his group, because indigenous hunters would harness other parts of the sea lion, like its pelt.

He said a male skull with all of its teeth could be worth $4,000 (R67,000), and since it's illegal buy them they've become more prolific on the black market.

Not everyone agreed that the sea lions were killed for their heads.

Vancouver Aquarium and Ocean Wise head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena told The Star it was more likely someone found a sea lion once it was dead and then cut its head off.

This was backed up by an incident in June when several locals watched a man spend about seven hours cutting off a dead sea lion's head then row away with it, according to CTV News.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) released a statement that said dead sea lions were a common occurrence, but this year there had been a "slight increase," and it was monitoring the ongoing situation closely.

If the head had been removed to tamper with evidence showing the sea lion had been killed by a human that would be a criminal offense, it said.

Four headless sea lions also washed up on Vancouver Island in 2013, and 12 were found in Quebec in 2014.

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