Friday, February 12, 2016

Pacific Marine Mammal Center

Where could Laureen be?
Way back in 1971 three people by the name of Jim Stauffer, John Cunningham and Dr. Rose Ekeberg came up with a wonderful plan on trying to save pinnipeds found stranded along the beaches near Laguna Beach.

A little assistance, please - we need you to help us.
What made saving the lives of sea lions, seals and walruses (though there aren't any walruses along the Pacific shore of Laguna - or none we've been told about) so appealing to the folks mentioned above? There wasn't much thought in it all at first but Jim being a lifeguard at Newport Beach just north of Laguna Beach happened upon an incident that would change the future of the beach communities from Long Beach to San Diego in a very short time.

Okay, not Jim's station but pretty!

A young girl came running up to Jim while he was duty and told him a young seal was in need of help lying on the sand not far from the lifeguard tower Jim was manning. He drove to the spot and sure enough a young pup was just stretched out in the sands almost lifeless. Jim carefully picked up the animal, to ensure it wouldn't decide to take a hunk out of him, and placed the sea creature into the rear of the lifeguard jeep. Instantly the animal leaped out and Jim thinking it was fine left it alone and returned to duty. But, being a conscience man, he drove back after duty and found the little seal still lying motionless on the sand. He drove to Dover Shores Animal Hospital and learned the pup had lung-worms - so with the right medicine and loving care Jim gave the pup it regained its health and soon was swimming back into the cold Pacific waters.


By the way, pinniped is the descriptor used for seals, sea lions, and walruses. Pinnipedia means fin or feather-footed. Just wanted to clear that up.

News of Jim the Lifeguard heroic work keeping a seal pup alive went up and down the coast and soon he was receiving dozens of calls per day about a seal here and a sea lion there in desperate need of love and care. Jim got his friend and fellow lifeguard, John Cunningham to assist him and then the recruited Dr. Rose Ekeberg of Laguna Canyon Animal Hospital to provide medicine and advice on how to help these animals - Dr. Ekeberb even temporarily would hold the animals in her clinic until they were well enough to return to sea.

Gorgeous but cold and dangerous sometimes
From barn to sea rescue facility - not bad at all

Quite a trio and this was before the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. They were ahead of the game and located a place to house and tend to the wounded or ill sea animals at a local barn owned by the city of Laguna Beach. It was renovated into a sea rescue facility and the ownership was offered to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center where it remains to this day as a fully functioning rescue and rehabilitation establishment.

Being helped on a daily basis.
J and L visited the non-profit business and were very impressed with not only the facility but the wonderful care the mostly volunteers take with each new 'patient' that is brought in on an almost daily basis. The cause of the stress on these beautiful creatures vary from undernourishment, dehydration and respiratory infections. Of course, there are also injuries from fishing accidents (human induced), shark bites, various diseases and even parasites.

Judy the volunteer of volunteers
We met a wonderful volunteer by the name of Judy who told us that during the busy season, late winter or early spring, the facility may get 5 or 6 calls per day of a stranded pinniped along the coast at which time the professionals race out in vehicles to the different beach locations and do what they do best - rescue and rehabilitate.

I'm ready to go home to the sea
As soon as the animals can feed themselves, pass a rigorous vet health screening they are allowed to return to the open sea - this can take a week or a month or more depending on the severity of the wounds or illness.
Water, sun, food and friends - where do we sign up?
By the looks of the swimming and yapping seals we witnessed in a large pool they didn't seem to be in a hurry to leave. Free food, plenty of diving space, friends to play with, and the loving attention of volunteers like Judy - who would want to venture back into the dark and sometimes hostile waters off the coast of Southern California?

J even thought of moving in with the guys - he enjoys fish every once in awhile.

Who's that cuddly bear?

What a handsome seal!

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