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The race to save 1,100 starving baby sea lions

BY ELIZABETH PIERSON

MAR 19, 2015

More than 1,100 baby sea lions have washed ashore on California's beaches in the past two months.

Some believe the sea lions are victims of the warming coastal waters, which are two to six degrees Fahrenheit above average. NOAA scientists say an El Niño climate pattern may be part of the reason why the waters are warmer in this area. El Niño events are characterized by warmer than average sea surface temperatures across the equatorial tropical Pacific Ocean, along with changes in weather patterns that can reverberate around the world.

Scientists also believe that the sea lion population is suffering from a lack of natural prey, according to Reuters, forcing nursing mothers to leave their young to seek food farther out in the ocean.

Volunteers and rescue centers have assembled to care for the hungry, homeless pups. Rescue centers, like the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, have taken in more than 800 pups to feed, rehabilitate and care for. But the facilities are reaching capacity.

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A rescued sea lion recuperates in a holding pen. Since January, more than 1,100 starving and sickly sea lion pups have washed up along California’s coast.

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Volunteer Brennan Slavik rescues a sea lion pup washed ashore at the beach, in Laguna Beach, California. There are more than 300,000 sea lions left in the wild, but several more warm-water winters could cause a dramatic decrease in population.

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A sea lion pup sits in a crate in the backseat of a truck after being rescued, washed ashore at the beach. Weighing only a third of what it should, the pup was euthanized at a rescue center.

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A sea lion pup sits in a crate in the backseat of a truck after being rescued, washed ashore at the beach. Weighing only a third of what it should, the pup was euthanized at a rescue center.

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Volunteer Lauren Henry feeds fish to rescued sea lion pups.

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Volunteer Asheley Simpson sticks a piece of tape labeled with the name of a just-rescued sea lion pup on a board at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center,

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A just-rescued sea lion pup is tube-fed a formula.

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Volunteer Brennan Slavik carries a just-rescued sea lion pup into a holding pen after feeding the pup.

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A just-rescued sea lion peers from a child's playpen.

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Kirsten Sedlick, Daniel Connor, Ashley Cook and Brennan Slavik tube-feed the rescued sea lion pups.

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A rescued sea lion sits in a holding pen.

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