Authorities were hoping to recover a baby sea lion today after it was snatched from the beach before rescuers could save it over the weekend, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
The LAPD says its officers were sent to Dockweiler State Beach near LAX at 3 a.m. Sunday after someone reported that the pup had been taken by two young men and two young women, according to police statement.
A witness told cops the suspects had been "taunting" and "harassing" a pair of baby sea lions near the water before taking one, the department said.
According to CBS Los Angeles, the foursome was suspected of throwing trash and a cinder block at the mammals.
The suspects wrapped one of the two sea lions in a blanket, put it in a dark Honda Civic coupe and fled, according to police.
Pete Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue responded soon afterward and rescued the other pup. He later said the young mammals can have bites 10 times the strength of a pitbull's and that they're difficult to feed.
He described the young one he rescued as "skinny and cold and hungry."
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Because such sea lions are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the investigation now is also federal, police said. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has opened a case.
The LAPD calls its own inquiry a "cruelty to animal criminal investigation."
The last two numbers of the plates on the two-door Honda were said to be 56. Anyone with information on the suspects or on the whereabouts of the pup were asked to call police at 310-482-6334.