$20,000 reward offered in shooting deaths of California sea otters

- The Center for Biological Diversity today added $10,000 to the reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for shooting and killing several California sea otters.

The bodies of three male sea otters were found between Aug. 12 and Aug. 19 near Santa Cruz. All three had been shot. The body of a fourth was found Aug. 20 and had a suspected gunshot wound.

Authorities are also offering a $10,000 reward in the case, making the total $20,000.

"Shooting California sea otters is a despicable act of cruelty and ignorance," said Miyoko Sakashita, oceans program director at the Center. "These shootings aren't just a crime against these otters but against nature and, indeed, all of those who value California's stunning beauty and wildlife."

Although sea otters were once hunted to the brink of extinction along the West Coast for their pelts, today they are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, as well as California state law. The crime is punishable by a heavy fine and jail time.

"Someone, somewhere has likely bragged about this horrible crime and it's imperative that leads be reported to the authorities so this investigation can move ahead," Sakashita said. "Once that happens, we're calling on prosecutors to pursue this case to the fullest extent of the law."

Anyone with information about these or any sea otter shootings should contact the CalTIP line at (888) 334-2258 (callers may remain anonymous) or the Fish and Wildlife Service at (650) 876-9078.

Anyone who finds a dead sea otter in Santa Cruz County should leave it in place, take a photo if possible, and report it immediately to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife at (831) 212-7010.

California's sea otters have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1977.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.1 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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