Someone shot three federally protected sea otters off California’s coast, and federal and state officials are offering a $10,000 reward for information that would lead to a suspect.
The three male sea otters, two juveniles and an adult, were found dead between the Santa Cruz Harbor and Seacliff State Beach in Aptos between Aug. 12 and 19, state officials announced Monday.
State wildlife officers said it appears the otters had been dead for at least several days before washing ashore.
Southern sea otters are listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. They also are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and California wildlife laws. Officials say killing one is punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and jail time.
Southern sea otters, also known as California sea otters, were listed as threatened in 1977. Small populations are found off the coast from San Mateo County to Santa Barbara County in the south. There’s also a sub-population around San Nicolas Island in Ventura County.
Those with information about the shootings are urged to contact the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s poaching tip line, CalTIP, at 888-334-2258, or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 650-876-9078.