Imagine the surprise if you drove past a highway patrol car on your way to work and saw that the passenger was not human, but rather, a sea lion pup! This was the case on April 30 during a hilarious yet important rescue off of South San Francisco’s Highway 101.
California Highway Patrol received a call around 8:30 a.m. reporting that a “marine mammal” was on the northbound 101.
Several motorists stopped when they noticed the baby sea lion and teamed up in an effort to direct it away from the busy lanes of traffic. One person reportedly tried to “herd the mammal with a handkerchief,” according to SF Gate.
Once the highway patrol officers arrived, they were able to safely rescue the sea lion, which appeared to be unharmed. The San Francisco CHP shared about the incident in a Facebook post, which has since gone viral – undoubtedly due to the cuteness of the subject.
“Officer Pereira opened the door to his patrol vehicle and the sea lion willingly jumped right into the back seat of the patrol vehicle.”
Look who the CHP FOUND ON highway 101. pic.twitter.com/xGzkIGNTQ0
— Amy Hollyfield (@amyhollyfield) April 30, 2019
The sea lion was initially transported to the Peninsula SPCA, but staff members were unable to take him. Buffy Martin Tarbox, Spokesperson for the SPCA, said “We’re not licensed for sea lions, but we didn’t see anything that needed immediate investigation,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The confused critter was transferred to The Marine Mammal Center in nearby Sausalito, which, according to its Facebook page, is a nonprofit veterinary research hospital and educational center “dedicated to the rescue of ill and injured marine mammals.”
The SF Chronicle reported that Emily Whitmer, one of the veterinarians on staff, estimated that the sea lion was about a year old, and that he had probably lost his way while searching for the Pacific Ocean.
The sea lion was initially given electrolytes through a tube, but soon received fish from his caretakers. “It’s like Gatorade for sea lions,” Whitmer said.
This cute animal’s story is thankfully headed for a happy ending, and is helping to raise public awareness about the do’s and don’t’s of interacting with wildlife. The Marine Mammal Center is reminding people to keep their distance when they encounter a wild sea lion. No petting, and no selfies!
“Today’s rescue of a California sea lion is a great example of the importance of members of the public giving our rescue hotline a call to report a marine mammal in distress,” Staff Veterinarian Dr. Cara Field said. “This action allows our expert veterinary team to provide immediate supportive care and give this sea lion a second chance at life.”
Whitmer reminds us that even though it ultimately was a good thing this sea lion willingly hopped into the patrol car, “hopping into cars is exactly what the Marine Mammal Center does not want sea lions to get into the habit of doing.”
Despite its seriousness, Marine Mammal Center is embracing the humor of the situation. “We’ll take good care of the little pup,” they said in a Facebook comment “There will be a strong lecture this morning about the dangers of hitch-hiking.”
The sea lion will be housed in a rehabilitation pen until it has recovered and is ready to be released back into the wild.
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