Santa Maria man Jordan Peter Gerbich, 30, was charged by the U.S. Attorney’s office of fatally shooting an elephant seal last September at the elephant seal rookery along Highway 1 just outside San Simeon.
The female seal was shot one time in the head. Authorities allege the shooting took place September 28, 2019. When it was found the next day, its tail had been cut off and its chest cavity cut open. Gerbich is not being charged in connection with the mutilations.
Northern Elephant seals are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and killing one is punishable by one year in prison or a fine of $28,000. Charges were filed on August 25. It has not been disclosed what led investigators to arrest Gerbich. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had offered a reward of up to $20,000 for information that would lead to the elephant seal killer’s arrest.
Gerbich had been arrested in November 2017 in Santa Maria for allegedly setting off a homemade explosive device in a dumpster behind a Santa Maria business that July. No one was injured, and the damage was minimal. However, Santa Maria authorities were sufficiently motivated to take fingerprints of the dumpster, which led to Gerbich’s arrest.
In 2014, Gerbich’s 10-month-old son died from what he concluded was alcohol-induced negligence on the part of the person caring for his baby at the time. The District Attorney declined to prosecute, and Gerbich mounted an unsuccessful online petition effort to get charges filed.
Elephant seals, which almost went extinct in the late 19th century, grow as large as 4,400 pounds. The males have large, bulbous, inflatable noses, which they use as sound chambers to help them communicate underwater. They spend most of their lives at sea, traveling as much as 13,000 miles on a given migration, and come ashore only to mate and bulk up.