A male sea lion found dead on an Otago beach had been shot, a necropsy has confirmed.
Department of Conservation ranger Ros Cole says the news is disheartening as sea lions are are critically endangered.
"To discover someone has such reckless disregard for our protected species is extremely disappointing," she said.
The animal, which was reported dead on Tautuku Beach on September 10, had appeared to be otherwise healthy and in good condition.
DOC is urging people with information to contact police.
Injuring or killing sea lions is illegal and can result in a jail term of up to five years.
It's the second time a sea lion has been found shot on the Catlins coast this year. In April, another male was discovered dead at Jack's Bay.