I have mostly avoided talking about wildlife rescue to this point -- mostly because I didn't want cute photos of baby animals to distract from the fact that they are wild and should not be considered pets. However, the current sea lion crisis we are facing is so unprecedented, I felt compelled to share.
To give some context, in a normal year we tend to start rescuing marine mammals around mid-winter heading into spring. These are not newborn animals, mind you, but adolescent seals and sea lions that were born last summer -- and should be well on their way to being full grown. This year, calls at another rehab facility started trickling in mid January and they quickly reached capacity for rescues.
My first day of rescue this season was emotional and overwhelming. On any given day we have one staff member on their own, with help from a handful of volunteers. When I arrived for my shift, there were already two sea lions taken in from the morning, emaciated and desperately under-weight. We had over 50 missed calls from all over Malibu, with sightings of malnourished sea lions all along the coast. Over the course of my nine hour shift, we went on to rescue an additional four sea lions only to return to our headquarters to find over 90 missed calls and our voicemail box was full. I watched other volunteers break down crying because we just don't have the resources to save them all.
While there are several reasons why sea lions are suffering so terribly this year, the main reason is food. There is simply not enough along the coast and the parents are leaving young for far too long to travel farther out from the coast looking for food. We are seeing pups almost a year old that are washing up weighing around 20 pounds, when they should be close to 80 pounds.
In 2013, a state of emergency was declared during a similar crisis. Sadly, this year we are on track to eclipse those numbers, and no such emergency has yet been declared.
How can you help us?If you see a marine mammal in need of assistance, please do not approach and call your nearest wildlife rescue group. It is illegal to move or transport an animal that is under protection of The Marine Protection Act. Our emergency hotline for the Malibu, CA area is 310-458-9453.
Donate time, money or resources. Most wildlife centers rely heavilly on volunteers. Find one near you that you could spend time at. Even the ability to show up, do some dishes, and change the laundry significantly helps us from falling behind. If you are unable to volunteer, donating supplies or making a contribution helps us or any other center stay a float.