(SEA LIONS/ANIMAL RESCUE) Restaurant goers at The Marine Room in San Diego, California came across a surprising guest last week—a baby sea lion curled up in one of the booths. The pup had apparently wandered into the restaurant because of changing weather conditions, particularly El Niño.

There have been several other sea lion pup sightings, from San Diego to Santa Barbara county, in places where they do not belong. In early 2015, over 3,000 baby sea lions were found stranded. Most of these pups are lacking nutrients and are quite small for their age.

Although dining beside a sea lion would be quite cute, it’s important that these pups are rescued and given proper care. Read on to find out more about why these sightings are a sign of stress for sea lion populations. — Global Animal

A hungry sea lion pup seats himself at a fancy restaurant in San Diego, California. Photo Credit: CBS News
A hungry sea lion pup seats himself at a fancy restaurant in San Diego, California. Photo Credit: CBS News

The New York Times, Christine Hauser

A hungry sea lion pup wandered off the beach and into a fancy seaside San Diego restaurant Thursday morning, took one of the best seats in the house and peered out the window at the waves as if preparing to order a big plate of sardines.

Alas, it was too early to be served. The restaurant, the Marine Room, does not open for dinner until 5:30 p.m. — unless it is offering one of its special “high-tide breakfasts.”

Bernard Guillas, the executive chef at the restaurant, posted photos of the pup, curled up or looking out the window, on his Facebook page Thursday.

“We found this little guy in The Marine Room restaurant this morning,” he wrote. “He was a little bit early for his high tide breakfast reservation.”

The pup was eventually rescued and taken to San Diego’s SeaWorld. But it was the latest reported sighting of a stranded sea lion in California, where the mammals are increasingly being found on land in places they were never meant to be, partly because of changing weather conditions driving them ashore.

A sea lion wandered into La Jolla’s Cave Store, a souvenir shop, last month. An employee said she lured it outside with salmon.

“It was very, very gentle,” Jim Allen, the store owner, told a local TV station.

Experts are seeing a higher number of reports of stranded sea lions, particularly in San Diego through Santa Barbara Counties, according to data published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Many of the stranded mammals have been emaciated pups.

In the first five months of 2015, there were 3,340 young sea lions found stranded, compared with 862 in the same period in 2014 and 1,262 in 2013, the agency said.

El Niño, the weather condition that causes temperatures in the Pacific Ocean to become unusually warm, is believed to be a reason behind the increased strandings because of its impact on the food supply web, according to the oceanic group. It can also generate algal blooms and infectious disease outbreaks.

The Marine Room, a high-end restaurant belonging to the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club in the wealthy San Diego enclave of La Jolla, has for 75 years offered diners a view of crashing waves from its dining room built straight into the ocean.

About 8 a.m. Thursday, Leslie Tovar, a manager for the Shores Restaurant, another of the club’s restaurants, was on the grounds when she got a call from a custodian at the Marine who was “vacuuming up the floor and happened to come across a baby sea lion that matched the interior very well.”

Continue reading the full NY Times article, here: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/06/us/a-hungry-sea-lion-wanders-into-a-restaurant.html