WARNING GRAPHIC IMAGES: Sea Lion Possibly Shot to Death, Found in South Bay

Fishing line, hooks, nets – many things threaten sea lions in our ocean, but bullets?

That's what Carole Baker believes killed one sea lion that washed up dead on Silver Strand State Beach, just north of the trailer campground, on Tuesday around 3 p.m. 

Photos she took of the animal appear to show a gunshot wound to its back.

Baker, who works as a nurse, said she's confident what she saw was a gunshot wound.

“Oh, I was sad. I was sad,” Baker said. “Clear, round puncture wound and there was no other devices attached to it, like an arrow or a spear. It was actively bleeding from the site even though the animal was clearly dead.”

NBC 7 sent Baker’s photos to several agencies. State beach rangers photographed the dead sea lion Wednesday, then forwarded the case to NOAA fisheries.

“The wound appears as if it could have been a result of a being shot,” County Animal Services Deputy Director Dan DeSousa wrote.

SeaWorld’s spokesman had their lead veterinarian look at the pictures, and that person said the wound was suspicious. He added they’ve seen similar cases before.

Last year, according to SeaWorld, San Diego saw a spike in sea lion shootings. There were around 10 cases, according to officials, one of which involved an animal riddled with gunshot wounds. So far in 2015, there have been a half dozen sea lion shootings reported.

Often times these cases are hard to investigate. There’s usually little evidence, no witnesses and by the time the animal is found, it’s typically too late. One state beach ranger told NBC 7 sometimes the tide brings in shot sea lions from Mexico.

“It was very disturbing to me,” Baker said, describing looking at the sea lion’s wound.

State beach rangers say a necropsy has not be conducted.

Harming a sea lion is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Violators can receive civil fines of up to $11,000 or criminal penalties of up to $100,000 and jail time.

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