A koala has been found dead with its ears cut off in Victoria, Australia as police investigate a spate of animal mutilations in the area.

The koala’s body was found on Monday by an SES worker. Police believe the koala’s mutilation was recent, but it is unclear if the animal was dead at the time.

Sergeant Pat Day has described the koala’s mutilation as “disgusting”. “It can only be described as a very troublesome and disgusting incident,” he told the Ballarat Courier. “There’s no reason for anybody to wish to treat an animal in this way, whether alive or dead.”

RSPCA Victoria is not involved in the investigation but said any deliberate act of animal cruelty may be linked to violence against other people.

“Deliberate cruelty towards any animal is sickening, and a very serious issue,” spokeswoman Sophie Buchanan told AAP. “Both because of the harm it causes to the animals themselves, and also because research consistently demonstrates a link between cruelty to animals and violent behavior towards people.”