Stranded Sea Lion Pup
Yesterday I was walking on the beach and by Isla Vista I saw a very small sea lion pup (it was about the size of a pug dog) resting on an indentation of a cliff wall. It was very cute with big eyes. It seemed calm and at times it closed its eyes. After reading about prematurely weaned sea lion pups last quarter and what to do about them if you see them, I put in a call to the Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center. It was about 6:00 pm. They never called back and the tide rose until the sea lion pup had to go back into the water. Initially, it kept trying to avoid the water but it had no where else to go.
This morning I still never heard back from the Marine Mammal Center, but I left a message that the sea lion pup had left. I called the statewide distressed marine mammal hotline (415) 289-SEAL to ask them what I should do in a situation like this. Here’s what they said. Report the animal to the hotline. Leave the seal lion pup alone. Do not attempt to help it or take it to an animal shelter. It is illegal to transport a marine mammal and the fines can be up to $20,000. Sometimes the shelter will even report people to the authorities who bring in stranded pups to their facility! The woman said that usually the first time people do this, they are given a warning but they will be fined if they ever do it again. This woman, who works at a marine mammal center, says that she never picks up a stranded marine mammal after 6:00pm because it is getting too dark. She also said that strandings this year are so numerous that some facilities are full and cannot accept more animals. She said that yesterday, the facility that she works for picked up 20 stranded animals. She said that there is only a 50-50 chance that a sea lion pup will survive anyway if it is admitted to a shelter. Many are dehydrated and malnourished and the additional stress of being put in a shelter is hard on them.
I went walking on the beach today to see if I could find the sea lion pup. I walked from the lagoon to Sandpiper Golf Course (slightly past Coal Oil Point). I didn't see the sea lion pup that I saw the day before, but I did see six dead sea lion pups or yearlings on the beach. I hope that the stranded sea lion pup I found is strong enough to survive on its own.
One of the six dead sea lion pups I saw.