A California sea lion found on a beach with pellet gunshot wounds was euthanized as officials search for who was responsible, officials announced on Tuesday.
Employees at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center rescued the female sea lion after it was found in distress on Newport Beach on Dec. 16 after being reported by animal control, the center said in a press release.
The 1 1/2 year-old sea lion, named Mandalorian by rescuers, was found to have two gunshots in the chest, most likely from a pellet rifle, the press release stated.
Mandalorian was monitored for a week and received treatment, but its health continued to decline. It was "humanely euthanized" on Dec. 22, the center said.
A necropsy done on Mandalorian showed one of the bullets was "between the rib and adjacent vertebrae" and the wound "most likely became infected, leading to severe muscle necrosis around the impact site and an accumulation of fluid in the chest cavity," officials said.
The second pellet was lodged in the mammal's muscles between its ribs.
The pellets were recovered and sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement for additional investigation.
"Unfortunately, what we saw is taking place up and down the Pacific Coast. These are disgusting and intentional acts, many of which are pre-meditated. We know there are many out there that feel like they are competing with the sea lions for the same resources," said Peter Chang, CEO of the center. "However, there's a pathway for us to cohabitate with these precious marine mammals, and shooting them is not the way."