Yesterday, a 36-pound male sea lion pup was found hopping along the edge of an orchard in the San Joaquin Valley. Famished and confused, the pup was nearly a mile from the San Joaquin River.
Farmhands working in the orchard spotted the animal and alerted their boss, Billy Lyons, the ranch owner's son. Lyons contacted the National Marine Fisheries Service in Southern California, which recruited volunteers at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, to undertake a rescue mission.
Eric Hopson -- the assistant wildlife refuge manager at the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Los Banos -- helped receive the pup from Lyons. Hoppie is now receiving around-the-clock care, not to mention a daily five-pound portion of fish, at the Marine Mammal Center.
"He probably would have starved to death," Hopson told the Merced Sun-Star. "He was already emaciated and lacking in body weight. Unless he could find his way back to the river and back to salt water, he would have eventually died a slow death."
Hopson said the pup was lucky to find his way to farmers who knew just what to do. The Lyons, including ranch owner and former state Secretary of Food and Agriculture Bill Lyons Jr., are known for their commitment to conservation causes.
"Hoppie is a very lucky sea lion in so many ways,” Hopson said, "I was just part of the process. It was great teamwork all around and a lot of lucky circumstances."
[Marine Mammal Center]