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'Pupdate': Help Manhattan Beach's Favorite Sea Lion Pups

Dec 22, 2020 07:13PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Photo via Manhattan Beach Police Department

Two sea lion pups who wandered up to residential homes in Manhattan Beach earlier this month have been rescued and are on the mend, according to the Marine Mammal Care Center Los Angeles (MMCCLA) in San Pedro, where they are now being treated.

The MMCCLA has set up a GoFundMe for their care. (Your donation dollars will be doubled thanks to a generous donor who has offered to match donations.)

The first pup was located in the 2800 block of the Strand on December 7. With his forlorn face and black heart-shaped nose, he captured hearts across the country as the pictures circulated in news reports around the world.

The second pup appeared about a block east of the Strand a week later. Both were rescued by Marine Animal Rescue and and brought to MMCCLA.

It's unclear why the pups would have left their mothers early, said veterinarian Lauren Palmer of MMCCLA.

"This time of year we see a few pups that have been weaned early, but typically weaning occurs in March, April, and May and that is when we see a majority of young pups stranding," she told DigMB. "It is impossible to know why some pups leave the rookery early, but it happens every year, for at least a few little sea lions."

Palmer continued: "The beach is the normal habitat for sea lions of all ages, but I don't think these young animals have enough experience to know that when they migrate away from the beach into a nearby neighborhood, it may not be toward the safest place. They often look for some place warm to rest and that may be in the sand, or even on a bike path, or the front steps of a house."

The second pup had a stingray barb in its nose, which Palmer said she was sure had been painful. "The pup was obviously trying to catch something to eat, but he won't be so eager to chase a stingray next time. There is a steep learning curve for sea lion pups," she said.


Malnourished Pups Watched Closely

The pups, who were found malnourished, are now eating. But they continue to be watched closely at the care center.

"For pups that are malnourished we usually keep them 4-8 weeks," said Palmer. "In that time, they will double or triple their weight, learn how to eat whole fish in a competitive environment, and get a little more time to mature before they are released."

Palmer added that complications could require additional treatment. "Sometimes these pups are afflicted with parasites and have respiratory issues, and we treat for those conditions. Often the pups that come in later, in April and May, are more ill and require more work to get them healthy enough to return to the ocean," she said. 

Note that the marine mammals who are on the mend at MMCCLA are assigned numbers, not names. This is to represent that they are wild animals, not pets, who will be returned to the ocean. 

"We have named a couple of special pups once they are released back into the wild or ones that are non-releasable and will have to go to a zoo or aquarium, but we generally do not name them when they are in our care," said Amber Becerra, the president of MMCCLA.


If You Spot a Marine Mammal

Palmer advised that if you or someone you know spots a marine mammal on the beach or in a place where it should not be, do not approach it. The best thing to do is call the rescue agency, Marine Animal Rescue,  at 1-800-39-WHALE (1-800-399-4253), and they will come out and evaluate the animal. Sometimes the animal is just resting and really does not need to be rescued and should not be disturbed, she added.

She also noted that Marine Animal Rescue, run by Peter Wallerstein, is the rescue organization, and Marine Animal Care Center Los Angeles (MMCCLA) is the hospital, and they are two different organizations.

"We are both 501(c)(3) non-profit groups that depend on donations to do our work. We are always grateful for public support," she said.

And again, the GoFundMe for the two Manhattan Beach sea lion pups can be found here.

Photo credits: Top photo: Manhattan Beach Police Department. Below photos: Julie Daniels.

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