Friday, March 29, 2013

Sea Lion Pups Dying at High Rate in California

Sea Lion Pups Dying at High Rate in California:
By Marty Graham
SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A federal agency has declared that more sick and dying sea lion pups have stranded themselves on southern California beaches so far in 2013 than in the previous five years combined, but scientists are still unsure what is afflicting the mammals.
The "unusual mortality event" notice from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released late on Wednesday follows animal rescue groups' warnings of a large influx of ailing sea lion pups in California.
"We anticipate this will get worse when the pups begin to wean from their mothers and have to forage on their own," said Sharon Melin, a wildlife biologist with the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is part of NOAA.
"It's going to be a bad year or two for sea lions," said Melin, who added that scientists were investigating what was causing the sea lions to get sick and die.
From the beginning of this year through last Sunday, 948 sea lion pups came ashore in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, according to figures from NOAA.
Los Angeles County has seen the most strandings this year with 395, according to NOAA. [More]