After an unusual rescue on June 28, the team relocated a pregnant sea lion who took a wrong turn and ended up on a golf course.
SAN DIEGO— At 7 a.m., the SeaWorld San Diego Rescue Team got an unusual call. A very pregnant female sea lion had found herself on the Omni La Costa Golf Course a little over a mile away from the Batiquitos Lagoon and several miles from the beach.
The team received photos from the Omni La Costa golf course staff, which showed the sea lion was heavily pregnant and looked like she was far from any good water sources that would give her access back to the coast.
Staff guessed she had taken one of the smaller creeks that led up to the golf course from the lagoon during a high tide from the previous night and became stranded.
“She looked very healthy,” said Rescue Supervisor Jeni Smith. “It looks like she made a wrong term in the middle of the night or something and just got comfy on the green.”
By 9 a.m., the team was on the scene and observing her from a distance, checking for any major wounds or any behaviors that could indicate something going on beneath the surface.
A visual exam is a standard procedure and allows the team to decide on a course of action, whether an animal needs to be brought in for more care or if they just need to be relocated.
“It was very clear she was healthy and alert to us and mentally with it,” said Smith. “She was keeping her eye on us, and that is when we were able to make the call to rescue her and relocate her.”
Some of the team’s rescues require further care at the rescue facility because they show signs of injury, they are lethargic, or emaciated.
Luckily this wasn’t the case for the mama sea lion. Still, Smith recommends that if you come across these animals, you keep your distance while taking photos and reporting the incident because even in this state, they are still wild animals.
“I would definitely keep your distance,” said Smith. “It is a wild animal. Most of the animals we rescue are pretty down and out. They are lethargic; they are emaciated, they have wounds; something is going on usually…But the second you get near them, the adrenaline comes in, and they are wild animals, and they can definitely bite.”
Smith said they usually ask for as many details as possible along with photos because it gives them an idea of the best way to handle the situation.
If you see an animal take some photos, give the best description of the situation if the animal appears lethargic or injured, and then try to give an idea of how big the animal is; Smith often uses dog sizes to get an idea.
“Sometimes it is hard to tell in photos,” said Smith. “So, we might ask them to compare it to the size of a dog because if it is a 400-pound animal, we need five people. If it is a little baby sea lion, we need two people, so that lets us know how many people are responding to the call.”
After the team observed the sea lion and determined the best course of action, they created a barrier to coerce the sea lion onto one of the transports before loading it up and driving it to a nearby beach where the sea lion could be released.
By 11:30 a.m., the team was able to return the sea lion to South Carlsbad State Beach with the help of the local lifeguards and state parks. While beachgoers looked on, the team was able to face the transport to the ocean and create a lane with boards to give the sea lion a straight shot back to the Pacific.
“She turned around and walked straight into the ocean and started swimming,” said Smith. “She came out for just a second, rolled around in the waves, and then she went further out into the ocean, and then we lost sight of her.”
From call to relocation, the rescue took just around four hours before the mama sea lion was released back into the ocean.
If there is a stranded animal in San Diego, contact the SeaWorld Rescue Team at 1(800) 541-SEAL (7325) or email the team at SWC.Rescue@seaworld.com.