They’re cute, they’re endangered, and they’re some of global warming’s first casualties. Baby seals throughout the Baltic Sea are dying, Der Spiegel reports, as rising temperatures melt the protective dens they rely on to survive. “The situation is dramatic,” said one environmental activist. “It could turn out that not one of the seal babies born in the last few weeks will survive.”
Seal mothers dig little dens for their pups to grow in, but with Finland’s southwest coast experiencing its least icy winter in 300 years, those dens are melting, sending the babies into freezing water without enough protective fat. They are also too small to stave off predators. The Baltic Sea is home to just 7,000 to 10,000 seals, down from 180,000 a century ago, according to the WWF.