Sea lion pup follows sign's instructions

April 3, 2015, 3:52 p.m.

This sea lion pup has found a comfortable spot to nap, a spot that also shows off her skill at not only balancing but also following instructions!

But as the photographer, Marlin Harms, points out, the sea lion's choice of sleeping spot in such close proximity to passing people was a quiet cry for help. Harms writes, "It was alert, but let us walk by, and like so many other young sea lions this season, needed help. We called the Marine Mammal Center, who retrieved the sea lion while we were out walking."

The Marine Mammal Center has been inundated this year with stranded sea lion pups who are sickly and starving. Experts are pointing at unusually warm ocean temperatures as the source of the problem, as it causes prey to swim farther from shore and in deeper water. As we reported earlier in the month, "During a typical year, the mothers might leave their pups for two to four days and then return to nurse for a day or two. This year, researchers using satellite tagging have found that although the sea lions aren’t traveling beyond their normal feeding grounds, they are spending longer trying to locate adequate amounts of food. Rather than being left alone for two to four days, the pups are being left for up to a week at a time."

With less food and feedings spaced farther apart, the sea lion pups become weak, emaciated and often wander into strange or dangerous locations in search of food, as the sea lion in this photo demonstrates.

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Jaymi Heimbuch is a writer and photographer at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.