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Large Numbers Of Guadalupe Fur Seals Dying Off California

Gregory Bull / File / AP

FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2013, file photo, a Guadalupe fur seal, front, passes by as a SeaWorld animal rescue team member feeds a California sea lion at their rescue facility in San Diego.

Gregory Bull / File / AP

(AP) - Federal officials are trying to determine why endangered Guadalupe fur seals have been stranding themselves and dying along the California coast, hundreds of miles from their usual habitat.

NOAA Fisheries announced this week that approximately 80 fur seals have come ashore in California since January - about eight times more than normal. The deaths have led the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to declare an "unusual mortality event" for the animals.

Guadalupe fur seals breed almost entirely on Guadalupe Island near Baja California, Mexico, more than 600 miles from where they are stranding in California.

Male fur seals can grow up to 7 feet long and top out at around 400 pounds.

Hunting brought the species to near extinction in the late 1800s, but it had been slowly recovering.