FORT BRAGG, CA, 10/31/22 – Volunteers rescued an adult male California sea lion from Fort Bragg’s famous Glass Beach on Monday afternoon, just a day after rescuing another sea lion from a beach near Russian Gulch State Park.

Giancarlo Rulli, spokesperson for the Marine Mammal Center (TMMC), told The Mendocino Voice that in recent weeks they have received a slightly higher volume of calls about sea lions appearing sick, lethargic or in distress on land in northern Sonoma and Mendocino counties. . TMMC receives approximately 10,000 to 15,000 calls each year from members of the public concerned about marine mammals within its 600-mile response zone.

“Adult sea lions are major indicators of the overall health of our oceans,” Rulli said. “They often come with a wide range of different ailments. Domoic acid poisoning is a potential illness; Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that causes kidney failure, and it’s something that’s seen around this time of year and more and more all year round.

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Domoic acid is a more likely cause of disease in Southern California waters. As for leptospirosis, the cause of the outbreaks is unknown but could include a combination of changes in herd immunity, sea surface temperatures and migration patterns. Other health issues can also afflict sea lions: About a quarter of sea lions treated by TMMC are diagnosed with fatal cancer, Rulli said, and an emerging parasitic disease called sarcocystis is causing muscle wasting in the animals. It’s hard to give a definitive diagnosis until an animal has been tested at TMMC Hospital in Sausalito, where today’s sea lion was heading this afternoon.

Volunteers kept watch on the sea lion once they were notified of its presence on the beach this morning. He was harassed by crows but still did not move from the rock where he was lying. Due to his “below average body condition” – or low weight – and obvious lethargy, TMMC gave the go-ahead to attempt a rescue.

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Eight volunteers from TMMC and the Noyo Center for Marine Science came to the site – with a large net, a metal crate on beach wheels and wooden planks for protection – to capture the estimated 500-pound sea lion and truck him to Sausalito Hospital.

The possibility of sneaker waves, combined with high surf in general, threw an extra wrench into the attempt.

“If she says get out of there, we get out of there no matter what,” said Tanya Smart, a longtime TMMC volunteer, as the crew assigned a member to watch the waves. It was important to plan ahead so they could approach the animal in silence – Smart planned to circle behind him and startle him with his wooden plank, so he moves off the rock and into an area where Noyo Center stranding coordinator Sarah Grimes could trap him. with the fillet.

The sea lion didn’t react much when volunteers approached on the beach, but stirred and fidgeted once in the net. (See the video on The Voice’s Instagram). From there, maneuvering him into the crate required a concerted effort to pull the line to the end of the net and flank him with boards. Despite a wave of sneakers crashing under the group as they began pushing the sea lion onto the beach, their efforts were a success.

“The best shots are good until the first shot is fired – or in this case, the first net thrown,” said volunteer Stan Anderson. Luckily, by holding on tight to the crate, no one was ripped off by the wave – and after using wooden planks to slide the sea lion from its crate into the bed of a truck, the volunteers made it a report on lessons learned for next time.

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After a drive along the coast, the sea lion “will receive a comprehensive intake exam where she will undergo blood tests, an ultrasound and a variety of different medical procedures to then determine what is the best course of action for the treatment protocol on a given animal,” Rulli explained. Several names are in the running for this sea lion – including Spooky, Boogie and Pumpkin Pie in tribute to the date of its rescue.

TMMC’s ultimate goal is always to return the animals to their natural habitat, but with an adult sea lion in poor condition, this process will likely take weeks or months.

“Sea lions are incredibly resilient animals, so if they come ashore…that’s cause for concern,” he said. “The reason they land is because they are not able to forage effectively in the wild, and the disease process is at a point where it prevents them from engaging in normal foraging behavior in full sea, and instead come ashore because they are too weak and weakened.

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But even in poor health, they are still large and powerful animals. Rulli warned that members of the public should give a sea lion or other marine mammal on the beach a berth between 50 and 100 feet, as animals in distress may behave erratically.

He also encouraged anyone interested to consider joining TMMC’s volunteer ranks and learn more by visiting the website.

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“We are always looking for response volunteers, especially in North Sonoma and Mendocino County,” he said.

Anyone who sees a possible marine mammal in distress should notify TMMC using its 24-hour hotline 415-289-SEAL.

Note: Kate Fishman covers the environment and natural resources for The Mendocino Voice in partnership with a Report for America. His post is funded by the Community Foundation of Mendocino, Report for America and our readers. You can support Fishman’s work with a tax-deductible donation here or by emailing [email protected]. Contact her at [email protected] or at (707) 234-7735. The Voice maintains editorial control and independence.