Nightly News   |  March 30, 2013

Sea lion pups stranded on Calif. beaches

Scientists in Southern California are increasingly concerned about the large numbers of starving sea lion pups washing up on the beaches. NBC’s Kristen Dahlgren reports.

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>>> lion pups washing up on the beaches. more than 900 of the animals have been rescued since january, leaving scientists scrambling to figure out why. we get a report from kristen dahlgren.

>> reporter: in southern california , a massive rescue effort. to save hundreds of starving sea lion pups stranded along the coast.

>> they're hypothermic, they're hungry. they're basically starving pups, just so cold without the body fat.

>> reporter: rescue centers are overflowing with pups coming in so malnourished, they have to be tube fed. and beyond the sad eyes are alarming statistics. last year through march, there were 88 strandings in southern california . so far this year, there have been 948. and the numbers are rising. southern california centers can't keep up. this week they had to ship some animals all the way to northern california , to the marine mammal center in sausalito. at nine months of age, they should weigh between 60 and 70 pounds, these are as little as 18. it's estimated only half the pups last june even made it this far. scientists are trying to figure out why. their best guest is the sea lions ' food source isn't there this year. forcing moms to go further in their search for food, leaving pups unable to nurse, and looking for comfort wherever they can.

>> if you're a young california sea lion , inexperienced being out on your own, you're weak, you're going to find anywhere that seems safe, and anywhere that you have the energy to get to.

>> reporter: in the hospital, they're given the nutrition they need with the hopes they'll eventually be released back into the wild . but on the beaches, it is still a struggle, a fight against starvation, and a race to rescue all they can. kristen dahlgren, nbc news, sausalito, california.