Yesterday’s Body Count

First the good news: the emaciated sea lion I reported on in my last post is no longer on the beach, suffering and lying helplessly in fear of getting run over. 

At least as of yesterday.

Although no one actually saw her make it to the water and swim off, the official theory is that she somehow suddenly snapped out of it and had a miraculous recovery. The main problem with that happy ending explanation is that she had lost so much strength and body fat that she’d have an extremely hard time battling the waves and avoiding the threat of hypothermia in the cold North Pacific waters. (One of the reasons weakened seals and sea lions sometimes haul out on the sand is for the warmth it provides.)

But I can imagine her using her last bit of energy to get back to her ocean home, thinking she would rather die in familiar aquatic surroundings than out on an exposed (which doubles as a highway), vulnerable to dogs, birds and any other scavenger that came along. Her body had lost buoyancy, being devoid of every last ounce of blubber, so, unfortunately, it seems probable she would drown and sink to the bottom when she had no more stamina to stay afloat. 

But at least she’s not still out there unprotected—a living obstacle for every passing monster truck or SUV.

Instead of finding her there, as was the expectation when we headed to the beach yesterday, we found the place virtually strewn with the bodies of other dead marine mammals in various stages of decay. Among the fallen were four other California sea lions—one of whom was a very young pup—and a harbor seal. Additionally, there were two dead porpoises who likely drowned in fishing nets. The seal and the three adult sea lions were all probably shooting victims; the newborn may have followed her dying mother and either starved from lack of milk or died of hypothermia. 

 

All in all, a high price to pay for that seafood dinner.

It always amazes me how fishermen out there (so utterly dependent on burning diesel fuel just to stay afloat) feel such a sense of entitlement to the fish in the ocean that they take sport in playing “cowboy,” shooting at highly evolved and incredibly adapted marine mammals whose historic claim to pelagic resources supersedes theirs by millions of years.

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6 thoughts on “Yesterday’s Body Count

  1. In addition to the tragedy of the dead and dying marine mammals, I am horrified at the thought of ATVs (Asshole Transport Vehicles) and monster trucks on a BEACH. What kind of beach is this? Thank god the beaches at which my husband and I vacation are not violated in this way.

    • So that’s what ATV stands for;) Fortunatly, the other kind of ATV (All Terrain Vehicles) aren’t allowed on the dunes around here because of nesting plovers. But further south along the coast the Oregon Dunes National Monument allows them to tear around everywhere. That’s one place on the coast you would want to avoid. It’s a shame, since the area has a lot of wildlife and an otherwise “wilderness” feel to it.

      The beach in question in this post has a 25mph speed limit and people are supposed to stay on the packed sand. Of course there are always idiots who race down the beach and run over birds. My wife and I drive the beach only so we can rescue injured or stranded birds and take them to a local wildlife rehab center (which is not licenced or allowed to help marine mammals). We’ve tried to ban driving on the beach several times around here, but most folks are too lazy to get out of their cars and walk.

  2. Does the tide come in considerably there, allowing her some help to get into the water? I’m sure you’re right– with no blubber she would have become hypothermic quickly and at least out of her misery.

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