Two men and two women abducted a sea lion after taunting its sibling and mother at Dockweiler State Beach early Sunday morning, officials said.
If caught, the four people face federal charges since sea lions are protected animals, Los Angeles Police Department Sgt. Paula Davidson said. The department's Animal Cruelty Task Force was investigating the incident.
A witness reported the abduction took place at the beach, located in the 12500 block of Vista Del Mar (map), around 3:13 a.m. to police, Davidson said.
The two men and two women, believed to be be in their 20s, taunted and teased the mother and her two pups before taking one of the young pups, putting it into the trunk of a vehicle and leaving the area, the witness told officials.
The car is described as a dark-colored two-door Honda Civic. The last two digits of its license plate are said to be "56."
Responding police and marine animal rescue officials located one pup, but said the mother had escaped.
"These are dehydrated animals. They're hypothermic, so they're very weak," said Peter Wallerstein of Marine Animal Rescue. "The animal's in danger now because these people took it off the beach."
Police said the abducted animal was a seal, but video of the rescued pup showed a sea lion. Officials with the Marine Animal Rescue could not clarify the discrepancy.
"We're one with the animals. We're one with the ocean," said Dustin Alan, a resident of nearby Marina del Rey. "So to have somebody come do things like that, it's just so upsetting."
Correction: An earlier version of this article erroneously reported the genders of the people being sought. It has since been updated to reflect the change.