Mystery malady affecting sea lion pups strains Sausalito wildlife center

Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The Marine Mammal Center in Marin County is on the front lines of a statewide response to a surge in sea lion pups turning up on California beaches emaciated and sometimes sick, at a time they still should be in the company of their mothers, nursing and learning to forage.

Already this year, the rehabilitation center in the Marin Headlands has received at least 108 California sea lions in need of care — mostly pups, but some juveniles and adults, as well, staff veterinarian Cara Field said Tuesday.

Even more were in line to arrive from triage centers farther south Wednesday, facility personnel said.

The marine mammal hospital usually takes in just a few California sea lion babies in January of a given year.

The most ever was last January, when there were 10, so “we’ve received a huge increase,” Field said.

The situation is similar across the network of marine mammal care facilities on the West Coast, many of them based in Southern California, closer to the Channel Islands sea lion rookery and other off-shore breeding grounds reaching into Baja.

Scores of malnourished pups, their big, dark eyes appearing even larger than usual in their thin faces, are being rehabilitated, taxing the nonprofit centers that take them in.

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