Local

Better to leave Central Coast young wildlife alone

A weaned 9-month-old California sea lion is fed at the Marine Mammal Center. The animal was on the beach at Oceano Dunes and failed behave as a healthy animal would by returning to the water as humans approached.
A weaned 9-month-old California sea lion is fed at the Marine Mammal Center. The animal was on the beach at Oceano Dunes and failed behave as a healthy animal would by returning to the water as humans approached.

It’s that time of year: Nature is full of young animals learning to make their way in the wild.Sometimes they need a little help. Sesame Seed, a 9-month-old California sea lion, is a good example.

It was found stranded April 7 on the beach at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area and was in danger of being run over. Rangers called volunteers with the Marine Mammal Center, who came out and picked it up.

Other than being a little skinny, the seal seemed healthy.

It spent the night at the group’s triage center in Morro Bay before being sent to the main veterinary hospital in Sausalito. There, it will be evaluated, fattened up and returned to the wild.

During a typical year, volunteers rescue some 650 seals and sea otters within the group’s 600-mile territory that stretches as far north as Mendocino County. About a quarter of the animals come from San Luis Obispo County.

“This is a busy area,” said Lisa Harper Henderson, manager of the Morro Bay facility. “We have volunteers on call 24/7.”

The group’s busy time started in February and will last through the summer as young harbor seals, elephant seals and sea lions are weaned and struggle to feed themselves.

This is also a busy time for Pacific Wildlife Care, which has a triage center of its own for seabirds next to the marine mammal facility. Other volunteers with the group rehabilitate terrestrial animals in facilities in their homes.

Spring is the time for deer to raise their fawns and fledgling hawks to learn to fly. These, too, sometimes need to be rescued.

However, the vast majority of new creatures do just fine on their own and don’t need any assistance. Every year, rescuers hear stories of misguided people prematurely trying to rescue an animal on their own or — worse — taking home a fawn or sea otter pup and trying to raise it as a pet.

Not only is this illegal, it’s doomed to failure.

Wildlife have highly specialized diets. Feeding sick wildlife is so complicated that rescuers are constantly refining their procedures to keep up with the latest lessons learned by veterinarians, Harper Henderson said.

The overriding message, rescuers say, is to call for help if you think an animal is in distress. A trained volunteer can respond, evaluate the situation and take appropriate action.

To report a distressed marine mammal, call 771-8300. For other animals, call 543-9453.

Related stories from San Luis Obispo Tribune

  Comments