Someone is shooting sea otters near Santa Cruz, California and they need to be brought to justice. Federal and state agencies are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the offender(s), as the southern sea otter is a “fully protected” species often threatened by coastal tanker traffic and oil spills. The question on everyone’s lips is: what kind of monster shoots a sea otter?

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Three male sea otters, two sub-adults and one adult, were found dead in Aptos, between California‘s Santa Cruz Harbor and Seacliff State Beach in mid-August. Initial necropsy findings show they sustained gunshot wounds several days, even weeks, before being discovered, leading officials to believe they died between late July and early August.

Related: Santa Cruz team proposes that sea otters could help slow global warming

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) are spearheading the search for information, encouraging citizens who see something to say something. Southern sea otters, also called California sea otters, are protected as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, as well as under California’s Marine Mammal Protection Act. They are also considered blindingly adorable by this author and a suspected majority of the worldwide population.

Because of these protections, killing a southern sea otter is punishable by a fine of up to $100,000 and a potential jail sentence. Anyone with information can call the CalTip line at 1-888-334-2258 or the Special Agent of the USFWS at at 650-876-9078. If someone finds a deceased otter, they are encouraged to leave the body where it is, take a photo, and immediately contact the CDFW at 831-212-7010.

Images via Wikipedia, Flickr