By Don Ford

MARIN COUNTY (KPIX 5) — A shocking number of fur seals are washing up on Bay Area shores, sick or dead.

Dr. Shawn Johnson – Marine Mammal Center Director of Veterinary Science, “They’re probably the cutest little Marine Mammal out there. They’re a combination between a California Sea Lion and maybe a Sea Otter.”

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This rare Guadalupe fur seal is one of the lucky ones being released back into the wild after recovering at the marine mammal center…once hunted nearly to extinction, now listed as threatened under the endangered species act. The Marine Mammal Center is seeing more of them, but that’s not good.

Dr. Shawn Johnson, Director of Veterinary Science at the Marine Mammal Center said, “Over the last four years the most we’ve ever rescued in one year is five. But recently, fifty.

These miniature sea lions eat mostly squid…but warming waters have the squid moving farther north…making it hard for the little guys to find food…very little is known about these creatures so scientist glued satellite trackers on them.

“You can see they go really far off shore!”

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Surprised, the researchers watched the seals — no larger than a dog — swim hundreds of miles out into the open ocean where they continued north to Canada, sometimes the signals stop.

Dr. Johnson said, “They also could have perished because they couldn’t find enough food or they got eaten by a shark.”

No one know for sure but…one thing in common with all seals…sharp teeth…

Keep your hands to yourself if you find one on the beach.

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Call the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito for help.