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Calif. police officers rescue beached baby seal

The little guy was found malnourished, but without injuries

seal rescue

San Rafael Police Department

By Natalie Hanson
The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. — San Rafael police helped rescue a baby seal found near the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

Officer Christopher Heinlein and Cpl. Mark Wilkinson responded to a report of a beached otter Saturday at Francisco Boulevard East and Grange Way. Instead they found a male baby northern fur seal, which had flapped across the road and managed to avoid being hit by cars.

Rescue workers from the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands were called to assist, Officer Kaitlin Maley said. The seal “had probably been without its mom for a while, but no injuries,” she said.

The pinniped received a medical exam Saturday and will spend time recovering at the Marine Mammal Center.

“The veterinary team identified the fur seal as a male pup in poor, severely malnourished body condition,” said center spokesperson Giancarlo Rulli, who described the seal as “responsive and alert, but not overly active.”

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Rulli said the seal is being fed a “fish smoothie” through a tube three times a day to increase his weight and restore hydration. Veterinarians will decide later this week whether to move the seal from his intensive care quarantine pen to a standard rehabilitation pool pen as he remains in treatment.

Northern fur seals are a threatened species and typically found 600 miles off the coast. They are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Fur Seal Act. The California northern fur seal stock, which breeds on San Miguel and the Farallon Islands, was estimated at about 14,050 in 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s fisheries division.

“Unlike California sea lions, northern fur seals typically hunt well off the continental shelf in the open ocean, so for this pup to come ashore in San Francisco Bay is a bit of a mystery,” said Cara Field, medical director at the Marine Mammal Center. “Further diagnostic testing will hopefully shed light on why this pup veered off course before coming ashore during its first year on its own.”

(c)2021 The Marin Independent Journal (Novato, Calif.)