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Three sea otters that washed up on California's Central Coast were fatally shot

Three sea otters that washed up on California's Central Coast were fatally shot
A group of sea otters is seen in Morro Bay in 2010. Authorities say three otters were fatally shot off the California coast in the last month. (Reed Saxon / Associated Press)

California wildlife officials are offering a $10,000 reward to find whoever is responsible for fatally shooting three Southern sea otters along the Central Coast over the last month.

The two juvenile males and one adult male otter were killed between late July and early August, and washed up between Santa Cruz Harbor and Seacliff State Beach in Aptos between Aug. 12 and 19, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife said Monday.

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The animals are protected under the Endangered Species Act and state law. Killing a Southern sea otter is punishable by up to $100,000 in fines and jail time, authorities said.

Southern sea otters are also known as California sea otters and are known to navigate the waters between San Mateo and Santa Barbara counties and the area around San Nicolas Island in Ventura County. They were listed as a threatened species in 1977.

A necropsy revealed the otters had been killed days or weeks before they were found. The reward money was put forward by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the state fish and wildlife agency and a private donor.

Anyone with information about the killings can call (888) 334-2258.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

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