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As Sea Lion Crisis Continues, Pups Like Percevero Are Desperate

Starving and too young to care for themselves, sea lion pups in search of food are sometimes found in the strangest places. The lucky ones end up in the care of experts at The Marine Mammal Center.

March 30, 2015

Percevero (front) with several other sea lion pups.
© The Marine Mammal Center

In the first three months of 2015, The Marine Mammal Center has rescued nearly as many California sea lions as we did during all of 2014.

Most of these sea lions are pups that should still be with their mothers on the Channel Islands. But sea lion mothers are having trouble finding enough food to sustain themselves and the pups they are nursing, so many of these young animals are left starving on the islands for days at a time.

Some pups tire of waiting and take off on their own—and the lucky ones end up coming ashore. A few of these pups are so desperate for food that they don’t stop at the shoreline. This is the story of one of those pups.

Why Did the Sea Lion Cross the Road?
At 7:10 a.m. on February 11, National Park Ranger Matt Wallat was driving along Skyline Boulevard near Fort Funston in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area when he stopped to assist two citizens guarding a California sea lion pup that had just crossed the four-lane road.

Ranger Wallat positioned his vehicle in the lane of traffic to further protect the pup until it could be moved into an animal crate for transport to The Marine Mammal Center for care. After arriving at the Center, Ranger Wallat was given the opportunity to name the pup he helped rescue. He suggested “Percevero,” meaning “to persevere” in Latin, a name quite apt for this pup who seemed determined to survive.

National Park Ranger Matt Wallat with Percevero.
© The Marine Mammal Center

Percevero weighed just 30 pounds when he was admitted to our hospital. A healthy pup his age would weigh about 40 pounds. In addition to being underweight, Percevero was dehydrated and malnourished. An admit exam revealed that he was also suffering from parasites and mild pneumonia.

Percevero was immediately started on a course of fluids as well as tube-feedings of life-saving fish mash, made from ground-up herring and water. Animal care experts at the Center added Percevero’s medications to his daily tube-feedings as well: antibiotics for his pneumonia and a de-wormer for the parasites.

Once Percevero grew strong enough, he was able to transition to eating whole fish. After six weeks of care, Percevero had nearly doubled in size, gaining 23 pounds. After proving he could compete for fish with his sea lion pen-mates, Percevero was given a final exam and cleared for release.

On March 30, Percevero returned to the wild at Chimney Rock in Point Reyes National Seashore along with six other young sea lions. Ranger Wallat attended the release to see Percevero and his friends return home.

“It’s very gratifying to see Percevero and the other sea lions get a second chance to live healthy and productive lives in the ocean,” Wallat said. “We need to keep in mind that the tremendous work that goes into their rehabilitation must be matched by our efforts to protect our environment.”

NOAA officials say that the waters in this area north of San Francisco have cooled in recent weeks and fish are available, giving these healthy young animals a good chance to make it on their own.

Percevero doubled in size during his six weeks at the Center.
© The Marine Mammal Center

So far this year, The Marine Mammal Center has released more than 100 healthy animals back to the wild, many of them young sea lions just like Percevero.

Watch the inspirational video of Percevero
and other sea lion pups being released at Chimney Rock:

You Can Make a Difference
We’re using more than 1,000 pounds of fish a day to feed all of our patients—and at $1 a pound, our food bills are adding up. Support our Dollar-a-Pound campaign to help give all of our patients a second chance at life.


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

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Learn about: California sea lions

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