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A Sea Lion on the Streets of San Francisco

One of the nearly 1,000 California sea lions treated at The Marine Mammal Center this year, Rubbish was rescued from beneath a car on the streets of San Francisco.

May 6, 2015

Rubbish was found under a car in San Francisco's Marina District.
© The Marine Mammal Center

It’s not unusual to see a sea lion in San Francisco. For more than 25 years, California sea lions have been frequent visitors to San Francisco’s PIER 39, hauling out on the floating docks by the hundreds.

What is unusual, however, is to see a sea lion haul out of the water at a marina and cross the busy streets of San Francisco. But that’s exactly what happened last week when a sea lion pup found himself lost in San Francisco’s Marina District.

Luckily for this lost pup, he didn’t get far before the San Francisco Police Department arrived on the scene to keep him out of harm’s way until The Marine Mammal Center’s trained rescue personnel arrived.

Early in the morning on April 30, the Center’s rescue team was assisted by the police officers in rescuing the pup and putting him into a carrier for transport to our hospital in Sausalito for assessment and rehabilitation.

Upon arrival at the Center, our veterinary team determined that the pup had previously been in the care of the Center earlier this year. The pup was originally rescued by the Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center on February 8 and brought to The Marine Mammal Center for care.

At the time, many of the Center’s new patients were being named after characters, objects and words from the “Harry Potter” series of books and movies. This particular pup was named “Rubbish,” as this word was used comically throughout the series.

Rubbish was just eight months old and severely underweight when he was first rescued in early February. He is one of more than 2,800 California sea lion pups that have stranded along the coast of California in 2015. Experts say that warm waters along the West Coast have affected food availability for nursing sea lion mothers and newly weaned pups.

The Center’s veterinary staff and volunteers treated Rubbish for pneumonia and malnutrition, and helped him return to a healthy weight before releasing him on March 23, 2015.

Rubbish is now rehabilitating in his pool at the Center.
© The Marine Mammal Center

So far this year, we have released 175 California sea lions back to the wild—most of them, including Rubbish, were released at Point Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco.

Ocean experts state that fish stocks have increased in this area, so we are confident that the majority of the animals released from our rescue range have a good chance of finding food and being productive members of the ecosystem. On average, fewer than 20 rehabilitated animals treated at The Marine Mammal Center re-strand each year.

Rubbish is one of those exceptions—after spending five weeks on his own, he lost about 17 pounds and found himself stranded on the streets of San Francisco.

Rubbish’s admit exam following his stranding last week confirmed that he is once again malnourished but did not indicate any further health issues. He is currently being fed herring several times a day and competes well with the other sea lions in his pen.

Once Rubbish fattens up, he’ll be given another chance to make it on his own in the wild. Upon release, he’ll be at an age in which he would naturally be able to survive on his own, in addition to being in much better body condition.

For now, Rubbish is just one of more than 115 California sea lions in our care, and we continue to rescue more sea lions every day.

The magnitude of this current California sea lion crisis puts tremendous stress on all of our resources. “What’s scary is that we don’t know when this crisis will end,” says Dr. Shawn Johnson, Director of Veterinary Science. “This could be the new normal—a changed environment that we’re dealing with now.”

Watch the video: It's not an episode of
"The Streets of San Francisco,"
it's the dramatic rescue of Rubbish the sea lion:

You Can Make a Difference
Help provide the critical care that these young California sea lions need to be successfully returned to their ocean home. Your support goes a long way to help all of our patients get a second chance at life.


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