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Blinky: A Rare Glimpse at a Northern Fur Seal

Blinky rests in his pen at The Marine Mammal Center. He is one of three northern fur seals the Center has rescued in 2010.
© Dina Warren, The Marine Mammal Center

On January 14, 2011, veterinarians made the humane decision to euthanize Blinky, a northern fur seal patient.  During Blinky's care, veterinarinas learned that he was showing caudate nuclei damage - very rare indeed.

"We had tried a few treatments to see if we got a positive response from any; the most recent being some steroids. Coming off the steroids it became clear that nothing was helping. It was pretty pitiful to watch this animal try to maneuver out of the water. Clearly he was not a release candidate and his quality of life was questionable at best. We are really hopeful that what we learn from the post-mortem examination and detailed laboratory analyses to follow will contribute to our better understanding of these animals, their diseases, and how to help;" explained Dr. Bill Van Bonn, director of veterinary science at the Center.

Blinky was a rare sight indeed.  It is very unusual to see a northern fur seal along the California coast at any time of the year.  When a northern fur seal is found on the beach, it usually means there is something wrong.

In Blinky's case, this was true. He was rescued by the Center's volunteers on November 19 at Cayucos Beach in San Luis Obispo showing immediate signs of distress.  He was underweight, weighing in at just over 15 pounds.  At only 5 months old, Blinky's slow, labored, and wobbly movements are caused by a dysfunction of his nervous system.  He was congested and coughing, and veterinarians noticed that his lungs sounded harsh. Since he was moderately underweight, Blinky was receiving daily tube feedings at the Center to keep his body weight and strength stable. Now, veterinarians are pleased to see his progress.


On November 30 Blinky received a full body work-up at The Marine Mammal Center, including radiograph images, a brain ultrasound, spinal tap, and blood tests, all to determine the cause of his unusual wobble a condition known as, “encephalopathy” - a scientific term that describes a generalized, brain dysfunction. (Encephalopathy does not refer to a single disease, but rather to a syndrome of global brain dysfunction; this syndrome can be caused by many different illnesses.) Would you like to help the Center care for other patients like Blinky through our Meals, Meds and Miracles program?  


Blinky, a northern fur seal, receives a haircut before undergoing a spinal tap procedure to determine the cause of his "wobbles."
© Dina Warren, The Marine Mammal Center






Body scan images of Blinky are examined to determine the cause of the fur seal's ataxia - a dysfunction of the nervous system.
© Dina Warren, The Marine Mammal Center













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