Four young sea lions tasted freedom — and the salt of the ocean spray — once again Saturday morning at Leffingwell Landing after successful rehabilitation at The Marine Mammal Center.
Several dozen people gathered to watch as part of the annual public release of marine animals in the Cambria area.
“We normally don’t release animals with the general public” watching, said TMMC Giving Officer Mitch Fong, who spoke to the crowd as part of an educational outreach before the sea lions were released. “It’s a way to engage the public and to thank them for all their support.”
Fong said TMMC stages five such public events each year at different spots along the coastal area where it rescues the mammals, which ranges from San Luis Obispo up to Mendocino.
Saturday’s event began at 10 a.m. at informational tables set up at the park just north of the cove where the animals were released.
Gary Angelus, a 20-year volunteer with the organization, demonstrated how the marine mammals are mouth-fed through a large syringe that looks like an oversized turkey baster. Cindy Marie Absey, another volunteer, showed onlookers how nets are used to capture the sick and injured mammals, which are then rehabilitated in Suasalito.
It’s a way to engage the public and to thank them for all their support.
Mitch Fong, The Marine Mammal Center
About 15 volunteers were on hand Saturday, some to work with the onlookers; some to transport the animals; and some to just watch the fruits of their labor in nursing the mammals back to health.
After Fong’s presentation, it was time for the main event, and the crowd walked down to the cove, where volunteers unloaded large plastic carriers where the animals waited to be released.
“It’s a pet carrier, but just a larger version,” Absey explained. “If it’s a smaller animal, two people can carry it, but if it’s a larger animal, it can take six to eight men.”
After a few minutes of making sure the carriers were situated properly in a row on the sand and checking to be sure the animals were ready, the volunteers released all four simultaneously.
The first two animals out turned briefly to nose-kiss each other, but after that, none of them lost any time in sprinting toward the waves. Moments later, they dived in and disappeared from view beneath the foam.
The four sea lions released Saturday, July 16, at Leffingwell Landing in Cambria were:
Sunset Willie, a female pup rescued May 22 at Monterey Harbor after being separated from her mother and suffering malnutrition.
Glenn, a female pup rescued May 4 at Del Monte Beach in Monterey County after being separated from her mother and suffering from malnutrition, pneumonia and fishing hooks caught on her flipper.
Jayden, a male pup rescued May 20 at Oceano Dunes after suffering trauma to both eyes and malnutrition.
Katie, a male juvenile rescued June 21 at Pirate’s Cove with lack of muscle coordination, a swollen jaw, a wound to the chin and malnutrition.
Mitch Fong of The Marine Mammal Center explained that members of the public who discover the distressed animals name them before their sex is determined, which is why some male animals have feminine names, and vice versa.