The Pacific Marine Mammal Center said in a news release that the 1-and-a-half-year-old female sea lion, named Mandalorian by her rescuers, was found in distress on Dec. 16 in Newport Beach, Calif. Rescuers discovered the animal had distinct wounds -- a draining abscess on her dorsal back, and two gunshots to her chest, mostly likely from a pellet rifle.
"Unfortunately, what we saw is taking place up and down the Pacific Coast," PMMC CEO Peter Chang said in a statement. "These are disgusting and intentional acts, many of which are pre-meditated."
The center said the sea lion was monitored over the next week and despite treatment, continued to decline.
After "a difficult decision was made," Mandalorian was "humanely" euthanized Dec. 22.
A necropsy of the sea lion yearling revealed that one of the bullets hit between the rib and adjacent vertebrae.
"This entry wound most likely became infected, leading to severe muscle necrosis around the impact site and an accumulation of fluid in the chest cavity," the group stated. "The second gunshot was lodged in the musculature between the ribs."
The gunshot pellets have been recovered and will be sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Law Enforcement for further investigation, according to officials.
"We know there are many out there that feel like they are competing with the sea lions for the same resources," Chang said. "However, there's a pathway for us to cohabitate with these precious marine mammals, and shooting them is not the way"