A minimum $10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the fatal shootings of three Southern sea otters found along the Santa Cruz County shore earlier this month, federal and state fish and wildlife officials said.
The male otters were discovered near the waters between Santa Cruz Harbor and Seacliff State Beach in Aptos from Aug. 12 to Aug. 19, wildlife officials said.
Investigators suspect the shootings of the two subadult and one adult otters happened in late July or early August, according to wildlife officials.
Preliminary necropsy results showed the otters died days or weeks after they were shot. The otters are a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as under state law, wildlife officials said.
Those found responsible for the death of a Southern sea otter can face a maximum fine of $100,000 and possible jail time, according to wildlife officials.
The reward of at least $10,000 is being funded through the Monterey Bay Aquarium, state Department of Fish and Wildlife and a private donor, wildlife officials said.
Anyone with information about the three shootings or similar incidents is asked to call the CalTIP line at (888) 334-2258, where they can stay anonymous, or a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent at (650) 876-9078.
Anyone who finds dead sea otters in Santa Cruz County is advised to leave it alone, take a picture if they can and report it to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife at (831) 212-7010.