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Skinned sea otter found on SLO County beach - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Skinned sea otter found on SLO County beach

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Federal and state wildlife officials are investigating the discovery of a skinned female sea otter on Arroyo de la Cruz Beach in San Simeon.

Southern sea otters are protected by California state law and considered a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Killing a southern sea otter is punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and possible jail time. Wildlife officials say removal and possession of a southern sea otter's pelt without a permit is also illegal, even if the otter was already dead when it was found.

The dead otter was found on September 26 by a beachcomber, according to Mike Harris with California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

"The evidence that we have indicates that it was a fresh, dead animal," Harris said.

The reason someone would remove its pelt is still unclear, but Harris says these mammals have the densest fur of any animal on the planet. They were nearly eliminated during the fur trade.

Todd Tognazzini of the San Luis Obispo County division of Fish and Wildlife says this crime isn't commonly committed in the county.

We haven't had a case that I recall where a sea otter was skinned and hide was removed and taken away," Tognazzini said. "You can't have parts of a sea otter, or any marine mammal for that matter, and you can't take them home."

This isn't the only sea otter death on the north coast that's being investigated. A sea otter that had been locally rehabilitated and was being tracked was found dead on September 12 in Morro Bay. 

"The sea otter that was living in close proximity to Target Rock was either shot from a boat or shot from landside by some person who had some malice towards the sea otter and killed it," Tognazzini said.

Suspects in both cases are still outstanding. 

Anyone with information about either incident is urged to call the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) tip line at 1-888-334-2258 or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at (916) 569-8444.

If you find a dead or injured otter, wildlife officials say you should leave it alone and report it to CDFW at (805) 772-1135.

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