By Michael Remski, Marine Program Manager
Each winter, as we prepare for the upcoming marine mammal stranding season, it is impossible to accurately predict what the season will bring. You plan for the worst, hope for the best, and try not to act surprised when things get crazy. 2017 brought us anomalies on all fronts.
We opened as planned on January 1st and took in our first patient of the year. The little sea lion turned out to be one of only 14 that would strand this year (our slowest sea lion pup season to date).
Then, just as we were ready to enjoy a relatively light year, the elephant seals started coming in, right on schedule in early March. But unlike years past, they kept coming. And coming. And coming. 47 of them to date. Fortunately, the rather large group of E-Seals turned out to be a little more robust than in years past, and we were able to save a record breaking 92% of them.
While still catching our breath from the rather busy elephant seal rush, we then got hit with one of the largest domoic acid outbreaks in years. Dozens of adult California sea lions were coming ashore exhibiting the classic behaviors of head weaving, seizing and hauling out amongst the crowds on public beaches. With local rehab centers at capacity, and a full load of elephant seal patients still back at CWC, the recent algal bloom took its toll on many California sea lions in the area.
Despite long hours and exhausting situations, the CWC staff and volunteers were able to rise to the occasion and do what we do best, save lives. Congratulations and many thanks to all of you who have made this season a tremendous success.