Calif. police save lost sea lion on freeway


By Henry K. Lee
San Francisco Chronicle

OAKLAND, Calif. — A young sea lion was rescued today after it was found roaming Interstate 880 in Oakland, a month after a similar incident in Richmond, authorities said.

The whiskered critter, believed to be a year old, was found waddling on the center divide of northbound I-880 near the Oakland Coliseum at about 5:45 a.m., authorities said. An Oakland police officer corralled the sea lion and put it inside a patrol cruiser and drove to the Oakland Animal Shelter on 29th Avenue.

Marjorie Boor, a staffer at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, responded to the animal shelter to help snag the sea lion.

But that was no easy task.

Boor and police officers tried to coax the sea lion from the back seat of the patrol car and into an animal crate. But the sea lion managed to slip out the door and hid underneath the car.

It played a game of hide-and-seek until about 6:45 a.m., when the group finally got it inside.

The sea lion was taken to the Marine Mammal Center. It has been given the name Fruitvale, after the Oakland neighborhood where the animal shelter is located.

The pup is "very active and alert" but slightly malnourished, center spokesman Jim Oswald said. Staffers at the center don't yet know whether the pup is male or female, he said.

On May 21, a male sea lion pup was found on the Richmond Parkway and taken to the mammal center. That animal died of malnourishment.

Last year, the Sausalito center rescued 813 animals, including 486 sea lions. On average, about half of rescued animals are released back into the wild, Oswald said.

Unlike harbor seals, which are almost immobile on land, sea lions can romp along on their flippers and spend time out of water.

The newly expanded center has seen an increase in the number of skinny and ill sea lions on California beaches, apparently as the result of fluctuating ocean conditions that may be depleting their food supply. Eighty-two of the 122 patients now at the center are sea lions.

Copyright 2009 San Francisco Chronicle

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