Marine mammals head back to sea

One of two Northern fur seal pups released in Cambria quickly makes its way to the water.
One of two Northern fur seal pups released in Cambria quickly makes its way to the water. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Rascal, a rare Guadalupe fur seal yearling, and Beige, a California sea lion juvenile, headed for the sea Wednesday at Leffingwell Landing in Cambria after being treated at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

Beige had been spotted Jan. 7 by equestrians riding in Montaña de Oro State Park. Rascal was rescued a day later from Coleman Beach in Bodega Bay.

Scientists later determined that Beige was ill and injured. Rascal was malnourished.

According to Shelbi Stoudt, stranding manager for the center, Rascal is only the 48th Guadalupe fur seal admitted to the mammal center’s clinic since 1975. The species is found on Guadalupe Island in the Channel Islands.

Two successfully treated Northern fur seal pups, Autumn and Cliff Kringle, also were released at Leffingwell on Wednesday. Tiny Autumn, weighing about 10 pounds, was found Nov. 2 by a Cambria family on the shore at Moonstone Beach, not far from the release site. Cliff Kringle was rescued Dec. 11 from Moss Landing State Beach.

Fur seals, too, are rare on Central Coast beaches.

On Wednesday, all four of the now-healthy animals headed straight for the surf, although Rascal and Beige hesitated a little, touching noses and yipping at each other when they first left their cages after the long ride from Sausalito.

About three dozen rescuers, marine-mammal lovers and sightseers watched and photographed the release. It was carefully monitored and controlled by mammal center volunteers, some of whom carried large boards with handles on the back, used for guiding recalcitrant animals to the water.

As the Northern fur seals headed out to sea, one volunteer said softly, “This is what it’s all about.”