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Authorities Offer $10,000 Reward to Capture Shooter of 3 Sea Otters in Santa Cruz Coast

Aug 30, 2016 04:00 AM EDT

Local authorities and officials are now offering a reward of at least $10,000 to hasten the search for whoever is responsible for shooting three Southern sea otters along the Santa Cruz area in late July or early August.

The otters, all male, washed up between Santa Cruz Harbor and Seacliff State Beach in Aptos between Aug. 12 and Aug. 19. Necropsy reports, the animal counterpart of autopsy, showed that the two juvenile otters and one adult male otter sustained a bullet wound and were believed to be dead several days or weeks before washing ashore.

"It's really hard to tell who did this," Max Schad, a warden at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told Mercury News. "Without having a suspect it's difficult to tell if it's a malicious person or a fisherman who is mad or someone else. It's all just speculation."

The reward money was issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife with the support of Monterey Bay Aquarium and private donors.

Killing a sea otter is a serious offense punishable by up to $100,000 fine and possible jail time. The Southern sea otter is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in 1977 and is fully protected under California State Law. Sea otters are also considered to be endangered in the Red List of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Historically, there are about hundreds of thousand up to millions of otters worldwide, including about 16,000 in California. However, pelt trade in the early 1900s caused their global population to plummet down to 1,000 to 2,000. At present, there are over 106,000 sea otters worldwide, with just more or less 3,000 in California.

According to Defender of Wildlife, Southern sea otters live in the waters along the California coastline and range from San Mateo County in the north to Santa Barbara County in the south.

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