Contributing the the sad-news start of 2015, starving sea lions have been washing up on the shores of California since January. Over 1,000 have been rescued, but many of the pups have arrived in search of sustenance and, despite the efforts of volunteers and marine organizations, not all of them will make it. “These animals are really desperate. They’re at the end of life. They’re in a crisis,” Keith A. Matassa, executive director at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, told Fox News. It’s unclear what’s behind the uptick in baby sea lion beachings, but scientists suspect that increased temperatures in the Pacific Ocean are forcing mammalian mothers to leave their pups while they search for food. As a result of being left to fend for themselves, pups have to wean early and seek sustenance on their own. They’re underweight and don’t have the skills to hunt; and by the time they make it to the shores of California, many of the animals are dangerously malnourished and sick. Rescue centers and marine life organizations are working around the clock to care for these poor little guys. SeaWorld San Diego has even called off its sea lion show and, according to Reuters reports, has rescued close to 500 sea lions so far this year, a record for the facility. It has set up two extra pools to take in the animals.
If you’re in SoCal and happen to come across a stranded sea lion (seriously, it could happen), call the The Marine Mammal Hotline to file a report and get help for the poor little guy. And remember: They may be adorable, but they’re also wild animals that are easily stressed by humans and could potentially bite. Proceed with caution — and care.