SAUSALITO, Calif. (KRON) — Pupping season is here and the California coastline is filled with young sea lions and seals. While most will be able to grow up healthy on their own, some need assistance.
This year, the marine mammal center says humans interacting with mammals on beaches, has driven up the number of pups they’re caring for.
Adam Ratner works as the Marine Mammal Center’s Associate Director of Conservation Education.
“We rescue any sick or injured marine mammal within 600 miles of California coast,” Ratner said.
Ratner has worked at the center for over a decade. However, he’s noticed a shift in recent years as their patient numbers continue to climb.
“Unfortunately, there are more sick and injured animals out there needing help,” he said. “Right now, we are seeing animals coming in due to human interaction, people are trying to help but they’re getting too close to the animals and they can separate them from mom or physically hurt them.”
The center, nestled in the Marin headlands, says negative human interaction is a growing problem in the bay area. Specifically, visitors to San Mateo, Marin and Sonoma county coastlines are getting too close for comfort.
“We’re fortunate to share our shores with them, but we need to take extra effort to give them the space they need while we enjoy the beaches ourselves,” Ratner said.
The Marine Mammal Center is currently caring for more than 130 patients. That means they’re going through about 1000 pounds of sustainably caught herring for feed each day.
Ratner says elephant seal pups typically come in to the center about 200 pounds underweight. They eat at least three times a day to eating five pounds of herring each feed.
The feedings are led by vets and carried out by volunteers. Despite the pups looking cute and cuddly, volunteers never get too close.
“We want to make sure their time here isn’t detrimental… we minimize the level of interaction with them so they keep the wild instincts,” he said.
Just as the experts keep their distance inside the center, officials want people to keep out on the shore.
“Just seeing an animal out of water is not bad, it could just be resting,” Ratner added. “If you see an outline of hip bones or ribs, cuts scratches or people around it, give us a call we’ll send a team of trained experts to get them.”
Pupping season ends in June, but the center rescues mammals in need year round.
The marine mammal center is run entirely off donations. With inflation, the cost of the fish they use for feed has essentially doubled over the last year. Right now there is a family matching donations to the center up to $5,000.
If you spot a mammal in need, call the 24 hour hotline AT 415-289-seal. To donate, head to their website or text “Ocean” to 41444.