A lone sea lion on a busy Monterey Bay beach is in serious, and potentially dangerous, trouble. It’s also a sad sight. When they’re sick, malnourished or injured, sea lions will haul out onto land to rest, recouperate or die. When one chooses a beach traversed by humans and dogs on a sunny Saturday, it’s seriously sick and faces overheating in the sun and the danger of human harassment. Unaware people can be in danger, too. (Last summer I had to stop a young boy from reaching out to touch the nose of a beached sea lion while his parents were watching!) If it can, a sea lion will bite. It’s a nasty wound for people or pets.
If you encounter a sea lion stranded on the beach, as I did this morning, please do not get close, keep dogs away and do not touch or try to assist the animal (a well-meaning but misguided person had piled kelp on this young sea lion to shade or cool it). Call for help!
Along the Northern and Central California coast we’re fortunate to have The Marine Mammal Center, which rescues and rehabilitates stranded marine mammals. They also will, if absolutely necessary, humanely euthanize. The website lists tips for what to do when you find a stranded animal. When you call — available 24/7 — they’ll ask for details about the animal, its condition and location.
From Mendocino thru San Mateo counties, call (415) 289-SEAL (7325).
In Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, call (831) 633-6298.
In San Luis Obispo County, call (805) 771-6298.
Wait until rescuers arrive, if possible. This make take a while. The Marine Mammal Center is staffed mostly by volunteers, the need is never-ending and resources are always limited. You can also help by donating to this great group even if you don’t find a stranded animal on the beach.
A final note: It’s harbor seal pupping season around the bay. If you find a harbor seal pup on the beach (they’re shaped like fat sausages and have no external ear flaps like the one you see on this sea lion), leave the pup alone. Its mother is probably close by. If you’re unsure, your first action is to call The Marine Mammal Center.
Other Monterey Bay rescue centers
For sea otters, contact the Monterey Bay Aquarium at (831) 648-4800.
For birds and other wildlife emergencies, contact the SPCA for Monterey County at (831) 264-5427 during business hours and (831) 646-5534 after hours, or Native Animal Rescue of Santa Cruz at (831) 462-0726.