Sunday, August 09, 2009

the one that got away

he (i'm guessing) looks so calm. so, almost tame. and what soft brown eyes. who wouldn't want to pet him?

we started down to the capitola pier this morning to get a closer look at two things out in the water that we couldn't quite see well enough out the window to identify. as we walked out on the pier we saw a sea lion on the main beach, where they don't usually go unless sick or injured. robin went home to call marine mammal rescue and i went down on the beach to warn people away, as we could see they were getting quite close to the animal. i stayed a bit and politely asked people to give the animal a wide berth. most were polite and understanding. several though were rather stuffy and close to rude. i had to leave for a bit to cool off. i watched from the pier and saw the sea lion twice chase after people when they got close. when robin returned we went back on the beach and sat there warning people. a few of the beachgoers helped. when people walked close to the animal we would get up and ask them to stay away. again, most thanked us for warning them to keep some distance from a sick or injured wild animal. a few protested that they didn't mean to disturb it. they didn't even see it. i replied "yes, that's why i warned you."

robin went back home a second time to fetch something to make more of a barrier than the three traffic cones supplied by the lifeguard. she returned with string and a handful of bamboo garden sticks that her brother brought over. so with the help of the nice people we made a big semi-circle perimeter of sticks and twine, open to the ocean. now there was at least a visible line for stupid humans to ignore. most kids were interested and curious and respectful of a sick animal. adults a bit less so.

one woman approached the string line with her two year old girl, who immediately went under the string. mom retrieved her and the child just went right back. she had that look of a kid who will stare right at you run into the street if told not to. she started towards the animal and many people yelled "that's a wild animal! get your kid." the kid was now about ten feet from the sea lion. mom dithered about stepping over the string or walking around. i leapt up, jumped over the string, picked up the child and retreated to safety. i got a snippy "i was going to get her" from mom. two of the men who helped us set up the stringline told me that they would have done the same. i was just a step quicker.

after a long interval marine mammal rescue came. they assessed that the animal was indeed in distress, possibly leptospirosis or domoic acid poisoning. we moved our string and they moved in to capture the sea lion. i wish that the stupid mom was still there to see how it reared up, roared, lunged a good eight feet and shoved through the rescuers to get back in the ocean. the rescue failed. the rescuers watched where the animal went and set off to the next beach south, where it was headed.

this isn't exactly where the sea lion was, but close enough. it was just a bit off to the right. a packed beach on a sunny sunday. to domoic acid poisoning fixed.

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