Welcome to our blog!

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, December 31, 2009

End of an Amazing year!



What a fantatically-busy year it's been for all of us at The Marine Mammal Center. It, in many ways, was a year of firsts: the first year we all began working out of our newly rebuilt hospital facility in Sausalito, the first year we re-opened back to the public and have seen well over 46,000 visitors since June, and the first year in our 34-year-history that we rescued over 1,600 marine mammals - three times our yearly average! Animals like California sea lion Sgt. Nevis (featured in this slideshow) and others got a second chance of life thanks to volunteers and the public who care enough to make a difference. We thank everyone who has supported us this year and we, along with the seal and sea lion patients, look forward to seeing you in 2010. Happy New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Watchdogs of the Sea


Young California sea lion in Monterey. Photo: Toni Gauthier

Here's an interesting interview with researcher Eric Montie who specializes in marine sensory biology at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science. Eric has visted the Center multiple times over the years and has collaborated with our research team on projects. One of the most important components of our work is rescuing and treating these animals in order to get them back to the wild, and studying marine mammal health issues that, in some cases, show a link back to the negative effects pollution has on the marine ecosystem. Sea lions are certainly the "Watchdogs of the Sea." Click here to read.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Something to be thankful for…



Today, Sequence, a big male California sea lion that was rescued in Monterey a last month as a result of some nasty shark bites, was released back to the ocean at Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands. Weighing in at about 482 pounds at admit, Sequence is the biggest animal the Center has rescued so far this year. Once admitted, veterinarians tended to his wounds, including a serious one on his flipper. It’s not the first time Sequence has stranded. In October, 1995, Sequence, a pup then, was identified and observed by researchers at San Miguel Island as part of ongoing marine mammal health studies. In December 2004, he stranded and was rescued by The Marine Mammal Center. At that time, volunteers and staff treated him for a bacterial infection and released him. Fast-forward five years later to this year, a much bigger Sequence was back on site, this time recovering in the brand new facilities. Big and powerfully strong patients like him pose some handling challenges so staff and volunteers worked as a team to safely handle him in order to provide medical care. While on site, our team gathered some valuable samples that will provide a wealth of knowledge about him and sea lions in general.

It was a beautiful day for a release. A small group of staffers, volunteers and beachgoers gathered to watch as Sequence (now weighing in at over 500 pounds!) was rolled down to the beach in a large metal carrier. Once the door to the carrier was raised, it took only a matter of seconds for him to jump out and make a bee-line straight for the surf. While remnants of his wound are still visible, the salty ocean should finish the healing process nicely. Sequence's recovery and release are certainly something to be thankful for!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Neither Wind or Rain will Deter Us!



Sea lion patients check out the storm while Tuesday Day Crew members prepare to feed the them. Photos by Marie DeStefanis

We want to give a special shout out and thanks to The Marine Mammal Center's "Tuesday Day Crew" and to the veterinary staff who braved the elements yesterday as the biggest storm of the year walloped the SF Bay Area with cold, hurricane-force winds and nearly five inches of rain in some north Bay cities like San Rafael which is not far from the Center. Through it all, the animal care crew donned boots, slickers and wet gear and battled the elements to feed, and provide medical care for nearly 70 sea lion patients. While the humans were cold and wet, their spirits were still high, and as for the sea lions - well they seemed to take the stormy weather all in stride!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cha cha cha!




As you can see from this video taken at The Marine Mammal Center - ChaCha (the one with the gray head sitting on the edge of the pool at the beginning of the video) is a young, gregarious and very mobile California sea lion. What you don't see in the video is that ChaCha has a unique ailment - he has an air pocket in his brain! Veterinarians and volunteers at the Center have been caring for him since September when he was first rescued from a beach in Monterey County. He appears to be gaining strength and could be released back into the wild if veterinarians think he can survive. You can read more about his story and other patients at The Marine Mammal Center right here.


Friday, September 18, 2009

Insights & Inspiration at the First Members-Only Night


Photo: Long-standing volunteer Lincoln Shaw, illustrates how the Center responds and rescues stranded marine mammals.

Over 60 members attended The Marine Mammal Center’s first Members-Only Night last night, September 17, 2009. Attendees enjoyed exclusive after-hours access to the Center, tours from some of our most experienced crew and volunteers and a chance to learn more about our patients with a talk by ‘Dr Bill’ Van Bonn, our new staff veterinarian.

To highlight ‘Coastal Clean Up Day’ this week, Dr Bill’s presentation was themed around marine debris and included photos and medical data of past and present patients who were found entangled in human trash or were suffering from gun shot wounds (this certainly gathered a few gasps around the room!)
The feedback from the night was great! With wine in hand, the sun setting over Rodeo Beach and the sounds of sea lions barking from our hospital wings, our first Members-Only Night certainly seemed to be the perfect antidote to a day behind a desk for many of our guests, and a wonderful way to learn more about what we do.

Read more about the event on our
website. Don’t miss out on the next Members-Only Night - make sure you’re a member - and watch this space…

Monday, August 31, 2009

Flipper amputation may give Round Two second chance back in the wild


Left - Round Two, a California sea lion, in surgery at The Marine Mammal Center.
Right - Round Two after surgery, rests comforatbly in her pool.


Round Two, a yearling California sea lion, is one of the latest patients to be admitted to the Center with a wound that if untreated, could have been life-threatening. She was spotted on a dock in Monterey County by citizens who called the Center. Volunteers from our Monterey unit jumped into action and rescued the 60 pound female yearling on August 16. She had major damage to her right hind flipper. Upon evaluation by the Center's veterinarians, it was determined that the trauma and infection were too much to fix. Lucky for Round Two this was a hind flipper and the decision was made to amputate it as sea lions can do well in the wild without one. All went well and Round Two ate one hour after surgery and has been swimming around and eating well ever since. She still has some major healing to do but her disability has not slowed her down and we hope to return her to the ocean soon. We think that's pretty impressive!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Arctic the Steller sea lion is on the move!


Remember Arctic, the Steller sea lion pup that was only days old when rescued by the Center in 2008 and was released in April, 2009 at Aňo Nuevo? Before her release, Arctic was fitted with a satellite tag so that we could track her movements in the wild. Although we recently stopped receiving transmissions (the tags generally last about 3 months) the transmission map above illustrates the remarkable range of her movements and indicates that she is adjusting well to life in the wild. We hope that she'll eventually have her own pup as she is part of a dwindling population of Steller sea lions. You can read about our successful efforts to rehabilitate another Steller sea lion pup named Artemis right here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sea lions back to the sea!



There's something beautiful about seeing former patients become healthy again and return to the sea. I don't know if it represents the accomplishment of the veterinarians and volunteers in helping each sickly animal, or if it's the homecoming, if you will, of seeing a California sea lion wobble its way down the sandy beach and dive head first back to his home in the Pacific ocean, but in any event, the Center's guests and special members got to experience that euphoric rush on August 8. That's when six California sea lions were released at Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands. The patients were given colorful names including Chirp, Smackdown, Snotball (o.k. not so glamorous, but certainly an active description), Van Eyck, Maylay, and Elijah. With a crowd looking on at a safe distance - out each sea lion came from within its carrier to explore its new surroundings. Within minutes most of the critters scooted, then dove into the water, while one lagged on for a bit as if to test his mood before committing to getting wet. He eventually did.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Center Receives a "Green" Award


left to right: Merrill Magowan, Board Chair, The Marine Mammal Center,
Jared Huffman - (D - San Rafael), Jeff Boehm - Executive Director, The Marine Mammal Center

Today, assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) awared us the July Sustainable North Bay Award for our efforts in fostering marine mammal survival and the conservation of their habitat, and for our investment in on site renewable energy generation via our new solar panels over the pens and pools. The assemblyman and his was given a tour of the Center and afterwards, presented the award to both our Executive Director Jeff Boehm, and to Board Chair, Merrill Magowan.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

No More Freeways for Fruitvale!

Video by The Marine Mammal Center

After almost a month of rehabilitation at the Center, Fruitvale is now back in the ocean where he belongs.  Saturday, he along with five other rehabbed sea lions were loaded into carriers and onto the Kitty Kat for the 27 mile choppy journey out to the Farallon Islands.  The Kitty Kat is operated by SF Bay Whale Watching which kindly allowed us some space on their boat to transport Fruitvale and his buddies Anquet, Hondo, Metheny, Prelude, and Superstar.  Rescue volunteer Marjorie Boor (who picked up Fruitvale from Oakland Animal Control) as well as naturalists Trish Mirabella and Nicole Lee were on board to help with the release and answer questions from the guests who were pleasantly surprised that the whale watching trip they signed up for included a special stop to drop off some unique passengers.  

Fruitvale was found on a busy freeway in Oakland on June 22 and volunteers and staff had been caring for him ever since helping to get him stronger and healthier.  Fruitvale, like hundreds of other sea lions we're rescuing these days, was malnourished - the food he would instinctively forage for along the coast had simply disappeared.  Sadly, many of these animals will not survive due to the medical conditions resulting from malnourishment.  So far this year we've rescued over 1,000 marine mammals of all species including over 720 sea lions.  Our yearly average number of rescues is about 600 animals, so this year is proving to be a very busy one for us and one where we have a lot of little mouths to feed!  We wish Fruitvale and the other healthy sea lions released Saturday the best.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Young Sea Lions Get a Second Chance at Life!




Photos: California sea lion pups are released from the Kitty Kat vessel. Photos by Nicole Lee.

In the past couple of weeks, The Marine Mammal Center has begun releasing many of the young California sea lions that were rescued due to malnutrition this past June. The sea lions are helathy and have gained the proper wieght needed to survive in the wild. On this day, a number of pups were transported by boat to the Farallon Islands, a group of islands that lie 27 miles outside of the Golden Gate bridge, and 20 miles south of Point Reyes.

The Farallon Islands were once exploited in the early 1900s for bird eggs and seal fur, but were later established as a National Wildlife Refuge for sea birds, whales, sharks, seals, and sea lions in the late 1960s. The sea lions are released at this location due to the strong upwelling that occurs around the islands. The islands rest at the end of the North American continental shelf, which is thought to support a rich pelagic food web. This may provide them with food they may have not been finding closer inland.

So far this summer, The Marine Mammal Center has rescued over 390 young California sea lion pups that have stranded as a result of malnourishment up and down the coast between San Luis Obispo and Mendocino Counties. Just over 900 marine mammals (primarily sea lions, elephant seals and harbor seals) have been rescued by the Center so far this year - well over the 600-700 it normally rescues on average each year. This high number of sea lion rescues is close to triple the amount of rescues made at this time in previous years. It is not currently known why the young sea lions are not able to find their food sources, but it is thought that the food has moved elsewhere or has dwindled.

For more information about how you can help these sea lions, visit the get involved section on our website.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Malnourished Sea Lions' Mystery

"Fruitvale" is a young California sea lion patient that was rescued from the northbound lanes of I-880 in Oakland, CA on June 22. The one-year-old pup is suffering from malnourishment and is being treated at The Marine Mammal Center. Photo: The Marine Mammal Center.

In recent weeks, The Marine Mammal Center has rescued hundreds of young California sea lion pups that are stranding as a result of malnourishment up and down the coast between San Luis Obispo and Mendocino Counties. This is almost double the number of rescues compared to last year at this time. Volunteers and staff are working at a feverish pitch to respond to all of the rescue calls from the public and are even triaging patients temporarily in the Center's Monterey and Morro Bay facilities. Animal care volunteers are also working hard to feed and care for the patients on site, pulling 10 hours shifts or more each day. The majority of these pups are just skin and bones and nearly half are dying as a result of medical conditions resulting from malnourishment.

Scientists are not sure why the sea lions are not finding the fish they would normally eat such as anchovies and sardines, but it appears that a higher number of sea lion pups were born in the Channel Islands last year and the competition for food sources that have dwindled or moved elsewhere, is now fierce causing many of the pups to come ashore weak and with little or no energy to return to the water. Officials with NOAA say it's too early to confirm that an El Nino phenomenon is happening. During those conditions, the seal lions' food sources tend to go deeper and further north. Sea lion pups mostly feed along the California coast.

Visit our website to learn how you can get involved today to help these sea lion pups get a second chance at life!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Center Opens Its Doors!



This week The Marine Mammal Center opened its doors to the public for the first time in almost 4 years. Unveiling its newly rebuilt hospital and educational facility, the Center welcomed over 450 visitors who were excited to view current patients, see feeds being prepared, watch necropsies being performed, and learn more about marine mammals through educational exhibits.

The Marine Mammal Center is now open seven days a week, 10 A.M.-5 P.M. To learn more, click here

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Center Holds Ribbon Cutting Event



On Friday, June 5, 2009 - World Environment Day - The Marine Mammal Center held a special ribbon cutting ceremony and celebration of its newly rebuilt headquarters. The event was attended by over 400 people and all received a peek at the new exhibits and facilites during staff-led tours. Event speakers included representatives from the offices of Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, and Lynn Woolsey, as well as The National Park Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. Major contributors to the Center were also acknowledged during the ceremony and participated in the ribbon cutting event. Guests dined al-fresco on a catered lunch before taking part in privately guided tours.

The Marine Mammal Center opens to the public on Monday, June 15 and will be open daily between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Marine Mammal Center Debuts New Facility to the Public on June 15!


Above left: Observational deck with new displays. Right: New educational displays and sea lion statue at entrance. Photos by TMMC.

Above left: Interactive sea lion exhibit in exhibit hall. Right: New display signs for fish kitchen. Photos by TMMC.

It’s a busy time here at The Marine Mammal Center! The interactive exhibits are in, the educational displays are up, and press releases are being written as we speak to announce The Marine Mammal Center is finally open after 4 years of remodeling!

Not only have dedicated staff and volunteers put in extra hours to launch the new facility, Stranding and Animal Care crews have been working overtime to rescue and rehabilitate the high number of sea lion patients entering the Center (about 10 a day)! Although it is not known why this influx in sea lion strandings sometimes occurs, one thing is for sure: the pups are malnourished. The staff and volunteers have been working diligently to care for all the animals and are continuing to find out new information.

Whether you’re just visiting the area, or are a dedicated Marine Mammal Center member, the Center invites you to experience for yourself the newly rebuilt hospital, research, and educational facility opening on June 15th.

The Center features observational areas to view current patients, meals being prepared, lab work processed, and even necropsies being performed. Visitors can learn about marine mammals through interactive exhibits in the exhibit hall and hands-on displays in the education classroom.
For more information about the Center, click here

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Center Examines Three Northern Right Whale Dolphin Carcasses

Photo: Jim Scarff

On May 22, five northern right whale dolphins were discovered, stranded on Santa Rosa Island, 35 miles southwest of Santa Barbara.  Dr. Frances Gulland, from The Marine Mammal Center, worked in conjunction with NOAA to lead a team of scientists to perform necropsy's on three of the carcasses to try to determine cause of death.  It may be months before the team will know what caused these dolphins to strand in this unusual mortality event.  You can read more about this at this link.

Santa Barbara Edhat | Local Stories by Local People

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Young Sea Lion Pup Discovered on Richmond Parkway



Above: "Moody" the California sea lion pup upon arrival to The Marine Mammal Center. Photos by TMMC.

Early Thursday morning around 1:30 A.M. the Center received a call regarding a small California sea lion pup stranded in an usual place. Frightened and alone, the 9-10 month old sea lion was discovered on the Richmond Parkway near Giants Road.

The thirty pound pup appeared to have wandered onto the dangerous expressway in search of food, which is commonly the case in stranded sea lion pups. “Sea lion pups are weaned by nine months, at that time they are learning to survive on their own” explains Stranding Manager Shelbi Stoudt.

The frightened pup hid underneath a police cruiser until corralled by rescuers who then wrapped the small pinniped in a towel and brought it to The Marine Mammal Center. The Center won’t known whether the pup is male or female for a few days, as he or she will need to rest and adjust to its new surroundings.

The malnourished pup will be given a full veterinary examination within the next few days and its treatment will be decided at that time. For now, the pup is safe and resting after a traumatic experience that could have resulted in a grim ending.

The pup has been given the name"Moody" in honor of Richmond police Officer Brad Moody, who died earlier this year in a car accident.

Update 5/26/09- Dr. Frances Gulland announced this morning that Moody has died due to malnourishment. Although Moody's story didn't have a happy ending, the Center can use the information gathered from this case to help future patients.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Elmo Makes a Dramatic Return!


Left: Elmo returns to the Center after bring refurbished by Scientific Art Studio in San Rafael. Photo by TMMC. Right: Frances Gulland, director of veterinary science at the Center, poses with Elmo in courtyard. Photo by TMMC.

The Marine Mammal Center welcomes back a familiar face- Elmo the northern elephant seal! Elmo has been with the Center for over 10 years and after a face lift and new paint job; has found himself a new home in the new courtyard!

Standing tall at over ten feet, the statue of Elmo replicates the actual size of an adult male northern elephant seal. In the wild, male northern elephant seals may grow to over 13 feet (4 m) in length and weigh up to 4,500 pounds (2,000 kg)! The females are much smaller at 10 feet (3 m) in length and 1,500 pounds (600 kg). Elmo is displayed in a fighting stance; a position in which adult males inflate their proboscis (nose) and produce loud roaring-like sounds to establish dominance for mature females .

While he might not have any female counterparts to impress here, his new look is likely to impress visitors at the Center and serves as a great feature to our courtyard!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Marine Mammal Center Celebrates Mother's Day, In a Different Way!

Malnourished harbor seal pup upon admittance in March. Photo by TMMC.Animal care crew members prepare to tube feed pups. Photo by TMMC.
A noticeably larger harbor seal who has began free feeding. Photo by TMMC.A group of harbor seal pups awaiting their fish dinner. Photo by TMMC.

Here at The Marine Mammal Center we're celebrating Mother's Day too, but in a different way! The Center is known for providing year-round care for sick and injured marine mammals, but every spring the Center takes on a new role: mother to the orphaned Harbor seal pups found along the California coast. With over 50 pups on site currently, this makes for a very busy time at the Center.

Arriving at TMMC, the harbor seal pups are typically malnourished from being weaned too early. This can happen when a mother abandons her pup, or when well-meaning citizens find a pup they believe to be abandoned and pick it up or move it. While a seal pup's best chance for survival is to remain with its mother, as mother's milk contains important antibodies that no substitute formula can provide, the Center is able to rehabilitate pups in need.

Upon admittance, the pups are put on a feeding regime; progressing from tube-feedings,to fish school, to free feeding. This week is a special time at the Center because many of the first pups admitted in February have gained significant weight and are now free feeding.

Pups are weighed twice a week. Once a pup attains a certain weight (40-50 pounds for harbor seal pups) and has been determined healthy by the veterinary staff, it will be considered for release. Many of the pups admitted in February and early March are making steady improvement, and may be candidates for release in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Arctic Returns Home!



Arctic, the Steller sea lion pup rescued by the Center last summer, has been released back into the wild!

Last summer Arctic was found only days old, malnourished and abandoned by her mother. Umbilical cord still attached, she was brought to The Marine Mammal Center where she was treated for malnourishment and taught the necessities of being a sea lion (tracking and catching fish, socializing with other sea lions, etc.) Due to their high intelligent levels, sea lions are highly susceptible to habituation. Because of this, Arctic remained in a quarantined area separate from humans in hopes that she will perceive humans as "intruders" to her environment.


The day before her release, black hair dye was used to mark her (which she will eventually molt off), and she was fitted with a satellite tracking device for TMMC to gain valuable information about her whereabouts and dive depths (to make sure she is foraging for food). She weighed in at 91 kgs (200 lbs)…a big difference from the 19 kgs (43 lbs) she came to TMMC as!


At her release, TMMC stranding team members reported that she was exploring the island, all rocks and crevices. She ventured down to the water where she stuck her head in a couple of times and dove in! She began playing with a yearling elephant seal and she was also seen trying to eat something in the water. So it seems her initial experience back on the island was a great one!

Steller sea lion pups are especially rare patients of TMMC, due to the distant locations of their breeding grounds. Arctic was a special patient here at TMMC because the Steller sea lion population has dropped by 80% in the last 30 years and is now classified as a threatened species.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

It's Official...Seahawk is Going to be a Proud Pop!


Seahawk as a pup found stranded on a tent. Photo submitted by Mary Ann Finger

Seahawk stands proud at The Pittsburgh Zoo.


It's official! The ultrasound results are in revealing that Seahawk and mate "Zoey" are expecting a pup!

Seahawk, a California sea lion, is a former rescue patient of The Marine Mammal Center. Found orphaned at an early age, Seahawk was rehabilitated for malnourishment. He was a unique case because despite release efforts, he re-stranded multiple times. It is not known why exactly this happens, but when it does The Center tries its best to find the animal a new home. Because of this, Seahawk was taken to the Pittsburgh Zoo for his permanent digs.

Now, 4 years old and weighing in at over 200 lbs, he has successfully bred with 14 year old pen mate Zoey; making him a soon-to-be dad! The expected pup will be Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium's first ever California sea lion pup to be born at the Zoo. Keepers and officials are preparing for the new arrival that should happen some time this summer by making the pen more "pup friendly".

We're excited here at TMMC to hear the recent news, and eager to report any new developments about Seahawk and his new family!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cinta, Tilley, and First Elephant Seals Rehabilitated at New Marine Mammal Center Facilities Released Back to Their Ocean Home!


Animals loaded into TMMC rescue truck. Photo by Nicole Lee
  
 
California sea lion, Tilley, sees her ocean home again!    Photo by Bob Wilson

Cinta, an endangered Guadalupe fur seal, is released back into the wild. Photo by Nicole Lee
  
Two of the first Elephant seal pups rehabilitated at the new MMC facilities are released. Photo by Nicole Lee

Last Friday The Marine Mammal Center released four patients back to their ocean homes. The animals released included Cinta, an endangered Guadalupe fur seal; Tilley, a California sea lion that suffered a terrible entanglement, and two of the first Elephant seal pup patients rehabilitated at the new MMC!

The release happened in the early afternoon and many on-lookers got a special treat to see the animals returning to their natural home. A special thanks goes out to the beach goers who pitched in a helping hand!