Police in Los Angeles, California, are asking for the public's help after two men and two women stole a sea lion pup from a local beach Sunday. The suspects were seen stuffing the small pup into the trunk of their car after harassing the animal for some time  – a federal crime that carries up to a year of jail time and a $10,000 fine. "I have no idea what they were thinking," says Marine Animal Rescue (MAR) president Peter Wallerstein. "[Sea lion pups] are really small, and really look cute, but they're dangerous. These are wild animals."

Wallerstein rushed to the scene to help rescue a second pup that, frightened by the commotion, managed to escape into the bushes. "These are dehydrated animals. They’re hypothermic, so they’re very weak. [The other pup] is in danger now because these people took it off the beach," he says. MAR has issued a plea to anyone with information to come forward. "The animal needs fluids, needs special treatments. You can't just feed it dog food. It's not going to work."

As of Monday afternoon, the sea lion hasn't been found, and police say they are no closer to finding the it. Anyone with details about the pup is urged to call NOAA.

Top header image: Michael R Perry/Flickr