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Meet Rudy, the Starving Guadalupe Fur Seal
Who Refuses to Eat Fish

Thanks to a dedicated team of volunteer caregivers, stubborn pup Rudy Miramontes is getting the nutrition she needs through special tube feedings until she decides to eat whole fish.

March 30, 2017

Rudy Miramontes, at the time she was rescued
© The Marine Mammal Center, NOAA Permit #18786

Guadalupe fur seal pup Rudy Miramontes weighed just 13 pounds when she was rescued from a sandy beach on Half Moon Bay in northern California. During her admit exam, the Center’s veterinarians noted that she was emaciated—in the poorest possible body condition. Her primary diagnosis: malnutrition.

You’d think an animal like that would be eager to eat, but Rudy’s chart reads like broken record: the same notation—“no interest in fish”—appears day after day.

After four weeks at the Center, Rudy still refuses to go after the fish our animal care volunteers toss her each day. No matter how they try to entice her, Rudy refuses to eat. Earlier this week, she was even offered something different—a squid snack instead of herring—but after swimming around the pool a bit looking interested, she didn’t eat it.

Each time Rudy turns down her daily offer of fish, the team isn’t finished—they must ensure this young pup gets the nutrition she needs to continue growing. After whipping up a serving of fish smoothie made from ground-up Pacific herring, salmon oil and water, the Center’s trained volunteers feed it to Rudy through a tube they snake down her throat and into her stomach.

Rudy Miramontes at the Center
Photo by Bill Hunnewell, © The Marine Mammal Center, NOAA Permit #18786

This routine—and the fish smoothie recipe—is well known around here. Rudy is just one of almost 100 patients at our hospital today, many of them suffering from malnutrition. But Rudy’s case is a distinctive one because Guadalupe fur seals are a threatened species after being hunted to near extinction in the 1800s.

In fact, the entire population along the California coast has been struggling recently with what experts have called an Unusual Mortality Event. Over the past two years, the Center has rescued a record number of Guadalupe fur seals—an alarming statistic given this population’s status as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Little is known about Guadalupe fur seals in part because they spend most of their time in deeper waters and rarely come ashore along the coast of the United States. That’s why experts from The Marine Mammal Center are working with Mexican researchers right now to study healthy fur seals at their breeding grounds on Guadalupe Island, off the coast of Baja California.

Want to know more about The Marine Mammal Center’s efforts to save a threatened marine species?

Tune in to our podcast to find out how scientists at the Center are teaming up with NOAA Fisheries to learn more about the elusive Guadalupe fur seal.

Rudy remains bright and alert despite her disinterest in catching fish, and she is displaying typical Guadalupe fur seal behavior, grooming herself in the pool and growling at anyone who comes close. Thanks to the dedicated volunteers who have been preparing her fish smoothies multiple times a day, Rudy has been gaining weight steadily and now weighs about 20 pounds.

So what’s your best guess on why Rudy won’t eat?

Getting ready for swimsuit season
Stubborn as a teenager
Afraid of fish
Prefers her fish served with soy sauce and wasabi

“Sometimes fur seals are just stubborn, and it takes them a while to transition to whole fish,” says Dr. Cara Field, Staff Veterinarian at the Center. “Despite her small size, Rudy is a feisty fur seal with a lot of fight left in her.”

Rudy’s check-up exams and bloodwork indicate that she is otherwise healthy and just needs to put on more weight, Dr. Field says. Rudy has also been started on a regimen of oral medications to treat any parasites in her intestinal system that could be causing digestive upset.

Once this stubborn fur seal pup decides to start eating fish on her own and gains a healthy amount of weight, she’ll be on her way back to the wild where we hope she may one day have a pup of her own to feed.

You Can Make a Difference
If you see a seal or sea lion on a beach that looks sick or injured, please resist the urge to pick it up or get too close. The best thing you can do for these animals is to call our 24-hour rescue hotline at 415-289-SEAL (7325) so that our experts can assess the situation and rescue the animal if needed.

You can help provide the critical care needed to return stranded Guadalupe fur seals to their ocean home. Your contribution goes a long way to help individual patients like Rudy as well as support scientific research that will help ensure a healthy ocean future for marine mammals and humans alike.




Learn about: Guadalupe fur seals

Join the campaign to Stop Trashing our Oceans

Learn how you can: Get Involved to Help Marine Mammals!

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