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Ridgie's Rocky Road to Recovery

One of the sickest sea lions makes a remarkable recovery. Read about his journey to recovery and watch his triumphant return to his ocean home!

November 9, 2012

After weeks of medical treatment and continuous care at The Marine Mammal Center, Ridgie was released back "Home for the Holidays" on Friday, November 9 at Point Reyes National Seashore. His recovery is nothing short of incredible and is a testament to the world-class medical care that our veterinary team and trained volunteer care crews provide to these animals on a daily basis.

Watch this video as Ridgie makes a beeline for the clear, blue Pacific ocean!

November 6, 2012

Ridgie, sea lion, leptospirosis, marine mammal center
November 6, 2012. Ridgie has every right to hold his head up high! He may soon be back in his ocean home thanks to a remarkable recovery.
© Ingrid Overgard - The Marine Mammal Center

Good news! Veterinarians are happy with Ridgie's health progress and it looks like our little sea lion patient will soon be released back to the ocean! See a picture, below, of Ridgie before his rescue and take a look at him now, in the photo above!

November 1, 2012

Picture of California sea lion Ridgie, laying on the beach
When rescuers found Ridgie, he was so sick he could barely lift his head. We later found out that his leptospirosis score was 28 - nearly off the top of our diagnostic system.
© Phil Warren - The Marine Mammal Center

Barely able to lift his head, Ridgie was very sick when a group of volunteers, led by Phil Warren (board member and stranding volunteer), rescued him from a beach in Bodega Bay. Lethargic and malnourished, this young California sea lion was quickly transported back to our hospital in Sausalito where our vets and animal care volunteers immediately began to rehydrate him. Blood tests indicated that Ridgie was suffering from renal disease - his kidneys were damaged from a bacterial infection called Leptospirosis. Read more about leptospirosis.

You can help feed and care for Ridgie by making a donation today!

  • $10 = 1 yummy fish-filled meal!
  • $25 = daily medical and supportive care.

Each year The Marine Mammal Center admits numerous sea lions suffering from a bacterial infection called leptospirosis, or lepto for short. Lepto is episodic, so some years there are thousands of sick sea lions that die without treatment. In 2011, of the 545 patients we admitted that year, 186 animals - or 34% - were diagnosed with lepto.

To better help these animals, veterinarians at the Center devised an innovative scoring system to help diagnose the severity of the renal disease caused by this bacteria. A blood test helps them determine an animal’s “lepto score”. This is a scale ranging from 0 to 30, with 30 being the most severe.

Picture of California sea lion Ridgie, having his blood rechecked
Volunteers assist veterinary staff in restraining and collecting blood samples from Ridgie.
© Ingrid Overgard - The Marine Mammal Center

Poor, sick Ridgie’s lepto score was 28! Being at the top end of the range, our veterinarians were deeply concerned that the damage to his kidneys might already be too severe; that no matter what they did, he would still die. “It is exceedingly rare for an animal with a lepto score of 28 to live” said Dr. Bill Van Bonn, our Staff Veterinarian.

Despite Ridgie’s poor prognosis, Dr. Bill implemented an aggressive treatment plan to give him every chance for recovery. After a few days a second blood test was done, and lo and behold, Ridgie now had a lepto score of 10! His new score was an impressive and exciting confirmation that the treatment plan was working!

Ridgie came to us with the highest lepto score we have seen all year and had little chance of survival. To see so much improvement in just a few days was really amazing. However, he was still not out of the woods, and a few days later took a turn for the worse. Our veterinarians were closely monitoring him and immediately adjusted his medications and he once again began to improve. Remarkably, his next blood test, taken on Halloween, showed that his lepto score was 0!

While Ridgie is not out of the woods yet, I think you can see from these photos that he is now a completely different sea lion as compared to when he was rescued from the beach just three weeks earlier. Our veterinarians do amazing things! Developing a unique set of guidelines they call the “lepto score” is just one of the many ways they are always working to improve how we help sick marine mammals. 

Picture of California sea lion Ridgie after treatment looking much better
After a rough two weeks battling severe renal disease, Ridgie looks like a different animal with his new lepto score of 0!
© Ingrid Overgard - The Marine Mammal Center

If you would like to help Ridgie, who still needs more time to recover fully before he returns to his ocean home, please make a gift.

Photo of California sea lion Ridgie
© Ingrid Overgard - The Marine Mammal Center

Did you know?

Mammals, including humans and our pets, can also get leptospirosis - and it can be fatal!

Click here to learn more about leptospirosis.


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