California authorities are investigating the fatal shooting of a protected southern sea otter that had been rescued and returned to the ocean last year.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife said Tuesday the dead otter was found floating in Morro Bay in September and a necropsy determined it was killed with a pellet gun.
A numbered tag identified the animal as an otter that had previously been found tangled in a fishing line and was rehabilitated and returned to the wild in July 2016.
Fish and Wildlife says it's the latest in a rash of crimes involving the otters.
A skinned otter was found near San Simeon in September and three otters were shot to death in the Santa Cruz area in August 2016.