Warming Oceans Drive Starving Sea Lion Pups Ashore in Search of Food
Hundreds of starving sea lion pups, many of them sick with pneumonia or parasites, are coming ashore on the United States coast between San Diego and San Francisco, swamping animal rescuers in a crisis that may be linked to ocean warming.
Rescue organizations report a five-fold increase in sea lion rescues this year, including 1,100 in the last month.
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“Many of the pups are leaving the Channel Islands, an eight-island chain off the Southern California coast, in a desperate search for food. But they are too young to travel far, dive deep, or truly hunt on their own,” the New York Times reports. “The pups are turning up under fishing piers and in backyards, along inlets and on rocky cliffs. One was found curled up in a flower pot.”
Scientists suspect a connection to changing water temperatures. The hypothesis is that “unusually warm waters are driving fish and other food away from the coastal islands where sea lions breed and wean their young,” Healy writes. “As the mothers spend time away from the islands hunting for food, hundreds of starving pups are swimming away from home and flopping ashore.”