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Seal or sea lion pup abducted from Los Angeles beach

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    In this March 24 photo, California sea lions and harbor seals rest on the docks of the East End Mooring Basin in Astoria, Ore.
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LOS ANGELES » Whoever snatched a seal or sea lion pup from a Los Angeles beach early Sunday should not be fooled by the animal’s cuteness — they could suffer a vicious bite, an animal rescue expert said.

A witness to the abduction said four people wrapped the pup in a blanket and left in a car around 3:20 a.m. from Dockweiler State Beach, just west of the city’s international airport, said Los Angeles Police Officer Rosario Herrera. The witness said the two men and two women in their early to mid-20s were harassing and taunting the animal prior to the abduction.

The initial police report said the animal was a small seal. But a companion pup that escaped and was later found on the beach is a sea lion, according to Peter Wallerstein, the president of the group Marine Animal Rescue.

The rescued pup weighs about 25 pounds and is probably 10 months old, said 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 said. "These are wild animals."

They’re also not fit to be kept as pets.

"The animal needs fluids, needs special treatments," he said. "You can’t just feed it dog food. It’s not going to work."

The federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the abduction because baby sea lions are a protected species. Police began a cruelty to animal investigation.

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