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Lost at Sea: Northern Fur Seal Pups Separated From Mom
Struggle to Survive

Fall is fur seal pup season at the Center as young animals born in June and July get swept ashore or struggle to find food on their own after being weaned.

November 6, 2014

Kadiddlehopper is a northern fur seal rescued by the Center for malnutrition and maternal separation.
© Adam Ratner, The Marine Mammal Center


Rarely spotted near shore, northern fur seals spend most of their time swimming in the open ocean or on offshore islands. So when our 24-hour rescue hotline got a call about a tiny northern fur seal pup on a flat, sandy beach in Central California, we knew something was wrong.

The tiny pup, named “Kadiddlehopper” by rescue volunteers, weighed just over 10 pounds when she arrived at our hospital. Based on her body condition and size, our veterinary experts determined that she was only a few months old and had likely been separated from her mother. Recent high seas could have swept her off the nearby Channel Islands before she was fully weaned from her mother’s milk.

Kadiddlehopper hadn’t yet learned how to catch fish before being swept away, so volunteers at the Center began making fish smoothies around the clock to keep her fed. During multiple tube-feedings throughout the day and night, Kadiddlehopper received a nutritious mixture of ground-up herring, salmon oil and vitamins, as well as antibiotics to treat any infection.

Kadiddlehooper receives her nutrition through tube feedings several times a day.
© The Marine Mammal Center


Just a week after Kadiddlehopper’s rescue, another northern fur seal pup arrived. The male pup, named “Fructus,” was found at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve, south of San Francisco, in an emaciated state. Rescue volunteers described him as “active, growly and vocal”—a good sign—but he was clearly suffering from malnutrition as well as minor bite wounds on his face.

Like Kadiddlehopper, Fructus was tube-fed fish smoothies when he first arrived at our hospital, but unlike her, he quickly showed interest in fish and began eating herring on his own. When animal care volunteers offered both pups fish in the pool, Fructus ate his share and then gobbled up hers as well.

Fructus catches a fish in his pool at the Center.
© Adam Ratner, The Marine Mammal Center

After three weeks in our care, Kadiddlehopper finally started to get the hang of eating herring too. The two pups have both put on weight since their rescues and seem to be improving, though it may be several months before they are strong enough to be released. For now, Kadiddlehopper and Fructus are spending a lot of time swimming in the pool and grooming regularly—an important natural behavior for an animal that counts on its furry coat to keep it warm in the cold waters of the open ocean. These pinnipeds have 325,000 hairs per square inch—more than three human heads!

Once hunted for their luxurious pelts, northern fur seal populations are still recovering and are considered “depleted” under the Endangered Species Act. Our dedicated volunteers and veterinary experts are doing all they can to ensure that these young animals are able to return to the wild.

You too can be a part of the recovery of these two fur seal pups. Your donation or membership will go a long way toward feeding and caring for all of our pinniped patients.


Stay in touch! Learn more about our pinniped patients and follow their fascinating stories.

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Learn about: northern fur seals

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