05/12/2016 12:20 EDT | Updated 05/12/2016 12:59 EDT

Beheaded Shark Photos Prompt Investigation In California

Authorities in California have launched an investigation after images of a decapitated shark surfaced on social media, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The images, which are available on Instagram, quickly went viral and sparked outrage online.

Sorry to need to share this sad photo but if anyone knows who caught and cut up this baby white shark and left it on #NewPortPier please let us know. Killing something just to kill it, especially a protected species with already low populations it's a tragedy for not only marine ecosystems but for the greater ocean reliant community. On a positive note the number of informed people who actually care to protect these animals is rapidly growing and I am #grateful beyond belief for that but it looks like there are still people out there that may not think of them as anything more than a potential fictitious "Jaws" creature. Truth is there is so much more to these animals than meets the eye and think about how many people swim and surf around that pier despite it being used as a #sharknursery ground #respectLife #RespectSharks #HelpSaveSharks #SaveSharks #ForTheFuture #HealthOceansNeedSharks #CaliforniaWildlife #CaliforniaGovernment #NOAA #californiacoastalcomission #CaliforniaFishandGame STOP #SharkFishing #savethegreatwhiteshark PHOTO FROM YOUTH AMBASSADOR @madi_makoff

A photo posted by OceanRamsey, Ocean Ramsey (@oceanicramsey) on

The photos' captions said the great white shark's head was found in Newport Beach, but officials say that's not the case.

"Our investigating officers determined it was not photographed at Newport pier," Chris Stoots, of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the paper. The image might have not even been taken in the state, he added.

“We are in the beginning stages of any type of investigation,” he said. “We are in the 'how, when, where and what' stage.”

Someone killed a baby white shark and left its head on display at #Newport pier... I'm speechless

A photo posted by Drew (@savage.xdrew) on

A teenager told CBS Los Angeles he saw a group of men "biting" the shark's head and "throwing it around, sticking it on their head."

"It was brutal to see that they’d treat an animal that beautiful that way,” Clay Kirksey said. “All these men were intoxicated.”

The 16-year-old said the men put the shark on the back of their boat, according to ABC 7.

In California, it's illegal to capture or kill a great white shark. The men Kirksey mentioned, however, told the fish and wildlife department that it was a mako shark, which would mean they were not breaking any laws.

Investigators told CBS they can't determine what kind of shark it is just from the pictures.

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