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.