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Warmer Pacific Leading To More Abandoned Seal Pups

SAUSALITO (CBS SF) – The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito is full of malnourished northern fur seal pups that have been abandoned or somehow separated from their mothers.

"In our 40 year history we have never seen this many animals. We've had ninety one this season," said Dr. Jeff Boehm, executive director of the Marine Mammal Center. "Prior to this year, 2006 was highest and that was thirty one."

Boehm told KPIX 5 that warmer ocean water is to blame. Nursing moms are struggling to find their normal food fish that have moved away to cooler waters.

"The Moms are traveling father to get their own food, their own nutrition to come back and nurse their pups. And the moms are underweight, the pups are under weight," Boehm said.

Sometimes the mothers die at sea, leaving many northern fur seal pups stranded.

The lucky ones end up at the center, slurping a high-calorie feed through a tube, while gaining weight.

Siobhan Rickert, a volunteer caregiver, said it consists of "Herring, water and Salmon oil."

But there is another problem. The center said of all the seals, northern fur seals are the quickest to bite, even the pups. Extra precaution is needed to stay safe.

"They're wild animals and people have to remember that. If you see one on the beach, the best thing to do is call the Marine Mammal Center," Rickert said.

The Marine Mammal Center expects the number of stranded Northern Fur Seals to start tapering off. But with this warm water, no one knows for sure how this is going to play out.

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