The Marine Mammal Center rescues animals in one of two ways: on land or in water.
Most rescues occur when animals strand along shore. The Center's Stranding Coordinators receive reports about potentially distressed animals from the public who call our 24-hour Response Hotline at (415) 289-SEAL. Through the phone conversation, the Stranding Coordinator determines whether or not further response is necessary. Next, trained volunteers are dispatched to assess the stranded animal. Assessment parameters include location, species, size, age class, body condition, dehydration status, wounds, behavior, vocalization, and human interaction.
If the animal is sick, injured, or orphaned, volunteers rescue the animal.
Rescue equipment includes animal carriers, nets, and herding boards. Rescues can take place under ideal conditions such as a sandy, drive-on beach, or in more difficult conditions, such as docks or mudflats.
Once an animal is rescued, volunteers administer emergency treatment at one of our satellite operations, and transport the animal to our veterinary hospital in Sausalito.
The Marine Mammal Center has a team of experienced volunteers specially trained to rescue animals from the water. The mission of the Special Rescue Operations (SRO) team is to rescue animals that have life-threatening injuries caused by direct human interaction. California sea lions are most commonly seen entangled in marine debris.
Volunteers operate an inflatable boat to approach entangled pinnipeds that are otherwise inaccessible, on floating docks, buoys, or jetties. Wearing wetsuits and helmets, members of the team slip into the water quietly and utilize floating "kamikaze" nets strategically placed near the entangled animal. A regular hoop net or sometimes a "net gun" is then directed at the target animal. Ideally, the animal is captured in the hoop net or the kamikaze net. Unfortunately, since entangled animals are still relatively healthy and since they are inches away from the water, it is difficult to capture them.
Tranquilizers cannot be used because animals can quickly jump into the water and drown as the drug takes effect. Once the animal is rescued, in most cases team members remove the entanglement immediately, measure and tag the animal, and release it. Within minutes, the now-disentangled animal can reenter its natural habitat.