Police in Mount Maunganui describe the killing of a sheep near a public walking track as a cowardly and despicable act.
Officers were called to the track at the base of the mountain at 10.30pm on Sunday, after three men were seen kicking what was believed to be a person.
Acting Senior Sergeant Craig Madden says when officers arrived, they discovered it was a dead sheep.
He says it appears fireworks had been placed in its mouth, blowing its lower jaw off. There was also an open wound to its stomach and it seems the men tried to set fire to the sheep's coat.
A police dog was unable to find the offenders and officers are now calling for help from the public to identify them.
SPCA warns of future offending
The Tauranga SPCA is warning that the men must be caught before their offending broadens to include humans.
The Tauranga SPCA manager, John Esdaile, told Checkpoint this type of offending never stops with animals, and such attackers are the sexual predators of the future.