04/23/2013 01:08 EDT | Updated 06/22/2013 05:12 EDT

Headless Sea Lion Found On Vancouver Island Beach

Officials with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are investigating after a headless sea lion was found dead on a Campbell River beach on Vancouver Island.

The massive animal's rotting corpse was still lying on the beach on Monday, and officers said it appeared the head had been cut off.

"We’ve got another situation of a sea lion that’s died that’s had its body parts removed, head in this case," said Paul Cottrell, spokesman for DFO.

It "is very disturbing, and it is similar to incidents that we had in the last six months, so [it's] something that we’re definitely looking into."

At least three other mutilated sea lion carcasses have been found on Vancouver Island beaches in the past few months, including one further south in Comox last fall.

In that case, the skin on the animal’s back had been removed and someone had attempted to remove the head. Officers also discovered that the whiskers on the head were missing.

Sea lion skin and whiskers are sometimes used to make items like drums and masks, but that kind of activity requires a permit, and each kill has to be reported to DFO.

The dead sea lions recently discovered on Vancouver Island beaches were not permitted kills.

Cottrell says DFO is still trying to determine the sea lion’s cause of death.

Anyone with information is asked to call the B.C. Marine Mammal Response line at 1-800-465-4336.

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