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The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit veterinary hospital, research, and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals and the study of their health. Since 1975, the Center has rescued and treated more than 16,500 marine mammals and has accumulated a body of knowledge about marine mammal and ocean health. Through public education about marine mammals, the Center hopes to foster ocean stewardship and conservation. For more information, visit http://www.marinemammalcenter.org/

Thursday, July 31, 2008

And in This Corner, Weighing in at 500 pounds...

The Marine Mammal Center has a very impressive patient at the moment. Gettysburg, a California sea lion, practically fills his pen, towering over the sea lions in adjoining pens. He's an approximately 8 ft. adult male who weighs in at over 500 pounds, at last (and only) check. Getting an aggressive animal of that size onto a scale is no easy feat! Adult male California sea lions develop a bump on their heads after the age of five which is known as a sagittal crest. Gettysburg has a sagittal crest (see photo above).

Gettysburg was rescued from Oceano Dunes in San Luis Obispo with a large abscess on his shoulder. He was unable to put weight on his flipper at that time, so it was clear he would need to be treated to survive. A whole team of people helped in his rescue and transport to the Sausalito hospital, where his abscess was drained and he is now receiving antibiotics to help heal the wound. In the mean time, he does not seem to like captivity, which is just as it should be, as we like to keep the animals as wild as possible if and when we are able to release them back to their ocean habitat. In the case of Gettysburg, a massive and potentially dangerous wild marine mammal, this means volunteers and veterinary staff must use all their training and be extremely alert and on guard when treating him. When inside his pen, volunteers must constantly avoid Gettysburg's roaring charges at them, often blocking him with a herding board to avoid getting bitten, while simultaneously throwing fish into his pool or using the hose to spray clean the floor of his pen. It's clear that caring for animals like Gettysburg is a labor of love for our brave and skilled volunteers!

It is hoped that Gettysburg will recover from his injury and be healthy enough to release back to the wild. In the mean time, this demanding patient eats 20 pounds of fish a day, about 15 pounds more than the juveniles in the pens next to him, and makes sure everyone knows he's the king of the pen. No easy guest, in other words!

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