Sea lion pups might look cute, but they bite 10 times harder than dogs with mouths that are the dirtiest among mammals—meaning four people who snatched one from a Los Angeles beach early yesterday could be in for a world of hurt, an animal rescue expert says. A witness said four people wrapped the pup in a blanket and left in a car around 3:20am from Dockweiler State Beach, just west of the city's international airport, says an LAPD rep. The witness said the two men and two women believed to be in their 20s were harassing and taunting two sea lion pups prior to the abduction. The second pup escaped and was later found hiding in the bushes on a bike path, Peter Wallerstein, director of Marine Animal Rescue, tells the Los Angeles Times.
The rescued pup weighs about 25 pounds and is probably 10 months old, says Wallerstein, who stays in a trailer at the beach and was woken by security guards seeking his help. Sea lions of this size are "really small, really look cute, but they're dangerous," he says. "These are wild animals." They're also not fit to be kept as pets. "The animal needs fluids, needs special treatments," he says. "You can't just feed it dog food. It's not going to work." The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the abduction because sea lions are a protected species; keeping one can mean a year in jail and a $10,000 fine. The Times notes that there's been an unusually high number of stranded pups on California beaches this year. (Read more sea lions stories.)