Tourists have flocked to San Francisco's Pier 39 ever since it was strangely colonized by hordes of sea lions. This year, the piers lie relatively silent, causing locals to ask: Where did the sea lions go, and are they gone for good? Alexis Madrigal at Wired (which is based in the San Francisco Bay Area) outlines some of the theories:
It doesn't appear that local weather conditions could have influenced the animals...While it's appealing to think that the animals may have just returned to their previous home at Seal Rocks, locals contacted by Wired.com didn't think there had been much of a change in the sea lion population there...So, for now, no one knows where they've gone or whether they'll ever head back to their perch amid the clam chowder shops and street performers.
Maybe the real explanation is media exaggeration. Daniel Stone of Newsweek says that while the idea of vanishing blubber makes an appealing story, "the truth is far less concerning." He argues that it's within the range of normal fluctuations, and might simply be a matter of "variances in food sources and weather."