A sea otter was found dead near San Simeon with its pelt illegally removed, and now authorities are looking for answers.
The otter was found skinned on Arroyo de la Cruz Beach in San Simeon on Sept. 26, according to a joint news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The otter was a young adult female, according to initial necropsy results, the news release said. The remains had already been scavenged by animals and insects before officials collected it. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory is conducting a thorough examination of the carcass, the news release said.
Southern sea otters, which are also known as California sea otters, are listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act, are considered depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and are protected by California state law, the news release said.
Killing an otter is punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and possible jail time. Removal and possession of an otter’s pelt without a permit is also illegal, even if the sea otter was already dead when it was found, the news release said. The otters, whose range once reached outside of California, are currently found from Santa Barbara County to San Mateo County.
Officials ask anyone with information about the killing or other otter killings to contact the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at 888-334-2258 or call a special agent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at 916-569-8444.
Authorities also remind people that anyone who finds a dead or injured sea otter in California should leave it where it is, take a photo if possible, and report it to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at 805-772-1135.