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The pup arrived in mediocre body condition, lethargic, exhibiting respiratory issues, and had a corneal abrasion on his left eye. Annika Galloway/California Wildlife Center
With rehab progressing, the California sea lion will be ready to go back to the ocean in July. Heather Patrice Brown/California Wildlife Center
Heather Patrice Brown, Development Coordinator, California Wildlife Center
6:12 am PDT June 24, 2020

On May 28, California Wildlife Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue team picked up a yearling California sea lion stranded on Malibu Road beach after receiving calls from the public. The animal was transported to CWC for medical care and rehabilitation.

The pup was in mediocre body condition, lethargic, exhibiting respiratory issues, and had a corneal abrasion on his left eye. Exams also revealed the sea lion had intestinal parasites which were challenging his ability to process food throughout the GI tract and impeding his ability to absorb water from his food, increasing dehydration.

An hour after he arrived at CWC, the sea lion regurgitated three baseball-sized components of a lobster. This was likely adding to his digestive issues. Crustaceans such as crabs and lobsters have hard exoskeletons which are difficult for young seals and sea lions to digest.

During his first two weeks in care, the patient was touch and go, sometimes eating well and exhibiting high energy followed by periods of disinterest in food and low activity levels.

Last week, the pup was offered squid, which is often a good “gateway” food source for sea lions who are not eating well in care since it is soft and easy to digest. The pup eagerly ate the squid, so staff stuffed it with herring to give him more calories.

Since then, he has been consuming more fish. Staff has been feeding the sea lion in a pool, separate from the other patients, so he doesn't need to compete for food.

Along with the administration of anti-parasitics, antibiotics, pain medication, and continued supportive care, he has turned the corner and is now on the road to recovery. The pup will likely be ready to return to the wild by the end of July.

California sea lions are the most visible marine mammal on the California coast, often hauling out in large numbers. They have dog-like faces and look dark and sleek while wet and lighter and fluffier when dry. Males are much larger than females, weighing up to 850 pounds as compared to females at 220.

They range along the West Coast from Southern Canada to the tip of Baja Mexico.

If you find a stranded sea lion, do not touch, pick up, harass, feed, or pour water on the animal. Marine mammals can cause harm and are easily stressed by humans. Do not encourage the animal to return to the water. Seals and sea lions temporarily “haul-out” on land to rest.

Observe the animal from a distance of at least 50 feet. Keep people and dogs away, and alert a local lifeguard, if possible. Take note of any physical characteristics such as size, presence of external ear flaps, and fur color as well as the animal's body condition. This information will help the response team identify the species and what rescue equipment is needed.

Determine the exact location of the animal and provide accurate directions. It’s impossible to rescue an animal if it can’t be found.

Call the local member of the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network. In Malibu, contact California Wildlife Center at 310-458-9453 and select option 1.


California Wildlife Center is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides medical and rehabilitative care to more than 4,300 sick, injured and orphaned native California animals every year. To donate, click here.