SAN PEDRO (CBSLA.com) — A local sanctuary for marine mammals has been inundated with an unusually high number of malnourished sea lion pups this winter.
The Marine Mammal Care Center in San Pedro says a record 43 sea lion pups were brought in during January, up from an average of 12 for this time of year. February is on track for another record month, according to David Bard, operations director of the Marine Mammal Care Center.
“It started in January. We had a record January this year, with 43 animals,” Bard said. “And, just in the beginning of February, we’ve doubled that.”
The sea lion pups arriving at the center are believed to be six to eight months old, weighing between 18 to 30 pounds. Healthy sea lion pups should be weighing in between 45 and 65 pounds at that age.
Scientists say the recent food supply has been good, so the sea lion population is way up. So why are so many pups showing up emaciated? One reason could be they’re going off on their own too early.
“It looks like these pups are leaving their mother before they really learn how to survive on their own,” Biologist Chris Nablon said.
But that could be just one reason.
“We really don’t know,” Bard said. “It could be related to the availability of their food in the ocean, it could be because there’s an increase in the overall population.”
Volunteers are tube feeding the pups and teaching them how to eat fish before putting them back into the ocean.