More than 100 sick sea lion pups have washed ashore on California beaches in the past month, say rescuers.
Staff members at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center of Laguna Canyon, Calif. have taken in 38 of the starving pups so far. They say all have been brought in malnourished and in need of medical attention.
More continue to come in daily.
“We have handled as many as 108 animals at one time, and are well prepared to handle many more than we have now if need be,” animal care director Michele Hunter said.
Melissa Sciacca, the center’s director of development, said the center treats 200 to 300 animals a year. In terms of the amount of sea lions being washed up on shore, rescuers usually don’t see these type of numbers until springtime, but it’s “nothing to be alarmed about.”
“Each year brings in different numbers. We never really know what to expect,” Sciacca told ABC News. “We typically don’t see these types of numbers until a little later, usually April and May, so it’s possible that our busy season is starting a little earlier this year, which may mean that it will end earlier too.”
PMMC has been in operation for 40 years and primarily rescues sea lions, harbor seals and elephant seals.
One of the center’s most notable rescues this year was of Rigby, a sea lion who was found hiding in a flower pot on Capistrano Beach. Rescuer Wendy Leeds found him.
“He was only 30 lbs., suffering from malnourishment and dehydration, and had patches of tar all over his body. He definitely needed to come in,” Lee said.
Rigby remains in intensive care, where he and the other pups rehydrate and re-balance their internal systems before being released back into the wild.
“We run full diagnostic panels on all of our patients to understand as much as possible what is affecting them,” Sciacca said. “Once the animals are fully recovered and have been given a clean bill of health, we return them to the wild for a second chance at life.”