Authorities are investigating reports that a baby sea lion was abducted from a Los Angeles beach on Sunday morning, as wildlife experts assert that while the animal may look cute, it remains potentially dangerous.
The abduction took place around 3:20 a.m. at Dockweiler State Beach, according to the Associated Press. A witness observed four people, two men and two women thought to be in their early to mid-20s, harassing the sea lion pup before wrapping it in a blanket and making off with it in a black Honda Civic. Though the initial police report of the incident stated that the abducted animal was a seal, a second pup which managed to escape before later being located on the beach was in fact a sea lion.
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“When officers arrived they met with a witness who observed two male suspects and two female suspects harassing and taunting two baby sea lions at Dockweiler Beach,” the report noted. “The suspects were seen taking one baby sea lion, entered a vehicle and fled from the location with the baby sea lion.”
Peter Wallerstein, president of the group Marine Animal Rescue, pointed out that while sea lion pups may look cute, they are still wild animals, and can potentially be dangerous. He also noted that sea lions require unique care, and are hardly fit to be kept as pets.
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“The animal needs fluids, needs special treatments,” he pointed out. “You can’t just feed it dog food. It’s not going to work.”
Wallerstein also related that since record numbers of seals and sea lion pups have washed up in Southern California over the last year, as the Inquisitr has previously reported, the animals are being abducted more often than usual. As NBC Los Angeles points out, keeping a sea lion is a federal offense, and the attackers could face a year in jail, as well as fines as high as $10,000.
In addition to legal punishments, the kidnappers may face threats from the sea lion itself, which can bite harder than a pit bull. The animal’s mouth is full of potentially dangerous bacteria, Wallerstein said, calling it the “dirtiest mouth” of any mammal.
“They could get bitten, they could get infected,” he said. “The sea lions can inflict a very serious bite.”
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Both Los Angeles police and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are investigating the abduction, as the baby sea lion is a member of a federally protected species.
[Photo by Kevork Djansezian/ Getty Images]