Every spring and fall, marine mammal sanctuaries in California take in waves of emaciated sea lion pups. Spring is when sea lions are born each year, and the fall is when they are weaned from their mothers. However, this year, from Santa Barbara to San Diego there is a huge surge in the number of sheltered sea lion pups during the unusual of months between spring and fall.
Many pups found on beaches were significantly underweight. Plagued with issues such as hypoglycemia and other ailments related to malnutrition, the sea lion pups struggle to survive. Wildlife biologists think one possibility for this phenomenon is that mother sea lions are forced to venture farther out to sea to find food, leaving their pups alone for longer stretches. Another possibility is the mothers aren’t eating enough themselves to have sufficient nutrition in their milk for the pups. As a result, pups are showing up about 20 pounds lighter than they should be.
The care centers will nurture the pups for a few weeks until they bulk up in weight and their health has improved. But the workers also have to make great efforts to avoid conditioning the sea lions to being around humans because when the pups’ health recovered, they are ready to be released to the wild.
It is great program to help sea lions, but only a small number of the young sea lions find their way to care centers. We hope this unusual situation won’t happen again next year and wish the pups never have a need to visit the sanctuary again in their lives.