Sea lion pups up and down the California coastline are facing a dangerous new world. Already this year the amount of washed up and emaciated sea lion pups has overwhelmed rescue agencies tasked with rehabilitating the young animals and releasing them into the wild when they are strong enough to fend for themselves. Scientists suggest a persistent patch of warm ocean water that has settled offshore may be throwing the ecosystem of Western North America out of whack. Shifts in fish population like fatty sardines cause nursing sea lion mothers to hunt much further offshore keeping them away from their babies for a much longer period of time. The babies wait on the beach and starve until eventually out of desperation they strike out on their own but don’t have the survival skills to make it in the dangerous Pacific Ocean.
If you come across a sea lion in the wild you think needs rescue the Marine Mammal Center suggests these 8 simple steps:
- Don’t Touch and do not pick up, pour water on or feed the animal!
They are wild animals and can bite. They also are easily stressed by humans.
- Do not return the animal to the water
Seals and sea lions temporarily “haul-out” on land to rest. Harbor seal mothers often leave their pups ashore while they’re feeding at sea. A beached whale, dolphin, or porpoise should be reported immediately.
Observe the animal from a distance of at least 50 feet. Keep people and dogs away.
Note physical characteristics such as size, presence of external earflaps, and fur color. This helps us determine the species, what rescue equipment and volunteers are needed.
Note the animal’s condition. Is it weak and underweight? Are there any open wounds?
Does the animal have any obvious identification tags or markings?
Determine the exact location of the animal in order to provide accurate directions. We cannot rescue an animal if we cannot find it!
- Call the lifeguards and they will alert the closest marine mammal rescue center.