A sea lion pup nicknamed Rubbish was found stranded on a sidewalk in the Marina District of San Francisco on Divisadero Street Thursday, April 30, 2015. A tourist reportedly spotted the pup hiding under a parked SUV at about 6:30 a.m. and alerted the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.
It took rescuers from the center, assisted by police officers, about 30 minutes to capture the animal. The male sea lion was eventually captured in a net, put in a crate, and transported to the Marine Mammal Center.
Workers at the center recognized the sea lion as having been the subject of a rescue by workers at the Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center earlier in February. Nicknamed Rubbish at the time, he was found to be suffering from malnutrition and pneumonia and weighing only 30 pounds.
He was nursed back to health and released back to the wild on March 23 at Point Reyes National Seashore, weighing about 50 pounds.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that when Rubbish was rescued a second time on Thursday, he was found to have lost 10 pounds. Workers said it was unusual for the same sea lion to be found stranded and rescued twice. They said vets will examine him to determine whether there are any health issues causing him to be stranded repeatedly.
Rubbish is one of more than 1,500 sea lion pups that have been found stranded on the coast of California during the first four months of 2015. The rise in number of stranded sea lions, first noticed in 2013, is believed to be due to warming of the oceans and dwindling supply of food, according to Dr. Shawn Johnson, chief veterinarian at the center.
Johnson explained that “elevated ocean temperatures have caused all the fish to migrate farther away from them.”
The scarcity of food causes nursing sea lions to leave their pups for longer periods, forcing hungry pups to go out to the sea to find food themselves. But being young and inexperienced, many end up stranded on the coast.
“In the first four months of 2015, we have rescued more animals than we rescued during the entirety of 2014. What’s scary is that we don’t know when this will end. This could be the new normal — a changed environment that we’re dealing with now.”
The Marine Mammal Center said it will likely rescue more sea lions this year than ever.
Johnson, however, expressed hope that Rubbish would return permanently to the wild after he recovers.
“It is pretty heart-wrenching to know that you put all this effort into rehabilitating them and giving them a chance out in the wild,” Johnson said.
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