Two cats and one coyote were caught and killed in dangerous, illegal steel traps, National City Police (NCPD) said.
The leg hold traps were found in two National City neighborhoods about a quarter of a mile from each other.
Last Saturday, Daniel Valdez and his sister, Nicole, heard an animal crying behind their backyard fence. When they went to inspect the noise, they found a cat, still alive but caught in a trap.
"It had a bunch of ants all over it. It looked like it had been there for a while," said Daniel.
Police freed the cat, but it did not survive the injury caused by the leg hold.
Officers found the three trapped animals near South Harbison Avenue at East 4th Street and about a quarter of a mile away on Manchester Street at Ethel Place.
NBC 7 crews found another two traps in an overgrown area behind the Valdez's fence.
The leg hold traps exert some 90 pounds of pressure per square inch. Determining them inhumane, California Fish and Game officials made it illegal to use any body-gripping or leg hold traps to capture any furry mammal.
According to NCPD Lt. Alex Hernandez, the animals caught in the National City traps dragged them from open areas into people's backyards, where the animals died.
"It's wrong," said Daniel. "It shouldn't happen. There are innocent animals out here just running around and getting caught inside of these."
Police believe someone may be trying to kill or capture wildlife, not domestic animals, but the traps don't discriminate.
Hernandez also warned children could easily be caught in the traps as well.
"Obviously our concern is not only for animals, but small children or adults that may be walking in an open area," Hernandez said. "And these traps are out there, and they don't see them, and they accidentally step on them."
So far, no arrests have been made.
If residents are having issues with stray domestic animals on their property, police ask that residents contact National City Animal Regulations at (619) 336-4478. There are alternative ways to remove wildlife on personal property.