Officials from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are asking the public for any information related to the death and illegal skinning of a southern sea otter found on a beach in San Simeon.
USFWS Spokesperson Ashley Spratt said the otter’s body was found in late September without any skin. Spratt said the southern sea otter is a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and the skinning, harassment, or killing of the animal is in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“Southern sea otters are a keystone species,” Spratt said. “They help keep the marine ecosystem in balance. With the loss of this otter, we lose its beneficial effects on the ecosystem.”
Spratt said whoever is responsible for the theft of the otter’s pelt could face fines of up to $100,000 along with jail time. She said it’s pretty rare to find an event like this on the Central Coast.
“This is really the first documented report of a skinned otter in this area in recent history,” Spratt said.
Spratt said it’s unclear if this case is related to the body of a skinned Hearst Ranch zebra found in San Simeon in January.