A NUMBER of dead seals have washed up on the shore of a scenic Cork beach.
The deceased pinnipeds appeared to have died as a result of suspected gunshot wounds.
The grisly discovery was made at Ardnahinch Beach near Shanagarry.
Pictures of the dead animals have surfaced online but have been deemed too sensitive to share here.
According to a report from Cork Beo, the incident is just the latest in a string of dead seal discoveries across the coastlines of Ireland.
It is thought that as many as eight have been found in Cork in recent weeks with more washing up in similar circumstances over in Waterford and Wexford.
So far this year, as many as 38 seals have been found dead on Irish coasts.
Speaking in an interview with C103's Cork Today Show, Melanie Croce from Seal Rescue Ireland said a post mortem would be required in order determine the cause of deaths.
However, she warned that a current lack of funding would make identifying how these animals died something of a difficulty.
She told presenter Patricia Messinger: "We've been keeping a dead seal database for the last five years and we've seen a huge rise in the last year.
"In fact, in 2020 we had the highest number of reports we've ever had, with 202 dead seals being reported from all over the coastlines, which was double the previous year.
"We've already had 38 reported over the last few weeks and over a third of them have come from Cork and as you say, eight reports in the last nine days have been from the Ardnahinch, Ballycotton and Shanagarry areas."
Asked specifically about the gruesome “gunshot” wounds shown in pictures of the dead seals, Croce said that such injuries were alarmingly commonplace.
"We do get this question quite often and we do see a lot of dead seals who have these holes in them," she said.
"Now a lot of these seals that get washed up are very decomposed and it would be almost impossible to determine the cause of death without a post mortem necropsy," she added.
"As the seals are a protected species under EU and Irish law, this would fall under the National Parks and Wildlife Service to carry out a proper investigation and post mortem.
"But unfortunately, they just really haven't had the funding or resources in order to be able to do that.
"So it's really, really hard to determine exactly what the cause of death is."
She did theorise that climate change was having a negative impact on the welfare of seals and other sea life.