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Starving Sea Lions in California are Washing Ashore in Record Numbers

Seals in california
baby sea lion

Baby sea lion resting on rocks by the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk – Santa Cruz, CA

More than 1,450 starving sea lions have washed up on California’s shores this year, in what wildlife experts are calling a crisis for the species.

What’s causing the pups to travel so far from their mothers? Experts believe that abnormally warm waters are to blame. As fish and other food are driven away from coastal islands, mothers are forced to spend time away from their pups to hunt for food. Meanwhile, the starving sea lions are swimming away from their home and wash up on Southern California’s shores.

The Channel Islands, off the Southern California coast, is where many sea lions call home. But pups are leaving the islands in droves, desperately searching for food. Most are too young to travel far, hunt on their own, or dive deep.

Animal rescuers are reporting five times more rescues than normal this year, with 1,100 sea lion rescues in just the last month. Pups are washing up in backyards, under fishing piers and on rocky cliffs. One resident found a pup curled up in a flower pot.

To help with rescue efforts, San Diego’s SeaWorld shut down its sea lion and otter show for two weeks so its specialists could lend a hand with the recovery effort. But death rates are still high among the washed up pups. Of the 1,450 pups who were rescued, only 720 are still being treated.

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