Sick Sea Pups Washing Up On California Shores Set New Record

Sick sea lion pups continue to wash up on California beaches, and the situation is only getting worse. The problem with the sea lions began at the start of 2015. According to CBS News, the number of pups that have been rescued since January 1 has surpassed the number of sea lions rescued in all of 2013. This year, the sea lion pups coming in is five times the normal rate, and it is only March.

Once the adult sea lions start to pop up as the year progresses, the animal rescue centers on California’s shoreline will be past their limits. In fact, they are passed capacity now, but volunteers continue to go out and rescue the sea lions found on the beaches.

However, they are not just found on the beaches. Another CBS News report revealed that some sea lion pups are making it to shore and being found in odd places, including “inside public restrooms, behind buildings and along railroad tracks.” Last month, one sea lion pup wandered into an apartment complex before it was rescued.

What is causing the influx of sea lion pups onto California shores? The Daily Breeze explained what is causing this record year for sick sea lion pups.

“A sprawling mass of warm water off the West Coast is blamed for the overwhelming numbers of California sea lion pups in need of rescue this year. It’s caused a disruption in the availability of food for the animals that give birth to their pups on the Channel Islands, prompting pups to wean themselves prematurely, before they can adequately hunt and fend for themselves. Multiple strandings have been reported all along the South Bay coastal stretch, including many animals beaching themselves in Manhattan Beach, Dockweiler State Beach, Redondo Beach and El Segundo.”

Rescues in the area usually see sea lion pups start to pop up on the shoreline in April and May, but this year has been different. The calls actually started before 2015 even began, back in December. Over 1,450 sea lions have been rescued since then, but many have not made it.

A report revealed that 720 were euthanized because of their condition once brought in. The Daily Times Gazette reported that “they’re all skin and bones with their rib cage protruding, some are sick with pneumonia, some have parasites inside them, and some are just exhausted that they’ve given up trying to escape from the rescuer’s nets.”

Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science at the Marine Mammal Center, spoke out about the seriousness of the situation with CBS San Francisco.

“We’re continuing to have a real crisis on our hands here with the number of sea lions stranding. We’re continuing to have to rescue them off the beaches, 10-15 a day. The sea lions are having to travel much farther to find food, so they’re not able to provide for their pups.”

With California rescues at capacity, Sea World has even jumped in and offered their help. The marine park has closed down their own sea lion show and created two pens to house sick sea lions rescued from California beaches. Both the U.S. Navy and the National Marine Mammal Foundation have also sent in volunteers to help with the rescue efforts.

Those pups that are rescued and deemed well enough to survive do not have it easy. Volunteers need to watch the animals closely, and there is a process involved.

“Each incoming pup has its temperature taken and is weighed, measured and given a blood sugar test before the team decides if they can save it. Those that make the cut are tube-fed a gruel of pureed herring, Pedialyte, vitamins and milk three or four times a day after starting out with a simple broth of hydrating fluids and dextrose. Those that graduate to whole fish are playfully called ‘feeders’ and those that can once more compete for fish tossed into a pool are called ‘fighters.’ “

It is clear that California marine rescues are fighting a battle, but the war is only just beginning. How many more sick sea lion pups will wash up on California beaches before the end of 2015? This year has already hit a record, but there are still many months left in the year.

To find out how to help in the rescue efforts yourself, visit the Pacific Marine Mammal Center website.

[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

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