Snorkeler Saves Humpback From Netting

Unfortunately, fishing equipment like gill nets are often left adrift at sea and our sea dwelling friends many times find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Thank goodness this diver and his friends came across this whale before it was too late. I love stories like this!

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Castle Rock State Park: Saratoga Gap and Ridge Trail Loop

My boyfriend and I are trying to start doing a Sunday Funday hiking routine. Every Sunday, or most, we are going to try to go on a short hike. Today’s hike was in Castle Rock State Park in Cupertino, CA. There were some rockier areas but the views were fantastic! I definitely recommend it. We took the Saratoga Gap Trail to Castle Rock Falls (we didn’t see the falls though, maybe dry this time of year?) and then switched to the Ridge Trail where they intersect to loop back around. It is about a 2.8 mile loop and with occasional stops for pictures, took us about an hour and 40 minutes to complete. The route is partially wooded with some exposed areas. In areas, the trail might be harder to traverse for people with mobility issues, but at the same time, you don’t need to be in incredible shape or anything to complete this and there are clearly marked trail posts along the way.

Parking can be a bit challenging, or at least it was today. There is a parking lot with an $8 parking fee, cash only. Or there is some street parking for no fee. Be sure not to park past the “no parking signs”. We saw a park ranger writing tickets for this. There is a bathroom of sorts at the parking lot but it isn’t anything fancy. Bring plenty of water!

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New Experiences at TMMC

The past couple of weeks have been very busy and fun at The Marine Mammal Center. The Thursday before last was very hot, in the upper 80’s to lower 90’s so working out in the hot sun all day was very hot and exhausting. This Thursday we got a nice break from that and it was a little chillier, but unfortunately it was also drizzly. That’s okay though, the day went pretty smoothly. Especially if you consider the fact that we were missing several of our veteran crew members.

This week, I finally was able to restrain and tube feed sea lion pups. Until this point, I had only been doing elephant seals. They are slower and less agile than sea lions so they are the better place to start learning. The sea lions I restrained and tubed were pretty down, energy wise, so they were good to start learning on. I think I’m getting the hang of that.

Unfortunately, one sea lion and one elephant seal this week were declining in health. Both crashed on Thursday and were seizing. The vet staff tried their best but ultimately had to make the difficult decision to euthanize them and end their suffering. Whenever a patient dies or is euthanized, a blood sample is taken to aid in research. I was able to learn to draw a blood sample from the sea lion. While the circumstances were sad, this was the first time I had done anything like that on one of the pinniped patients and I am grateful to the vet staff for letting me practice and learn.

In a few weeks, I will be taking the basic meds class so that I can start pulling meds for the patients, and hopefully soon after that I can take the advanced meds course so I can give injections and subQ (subcutaneous or under the skin) fluids.

Some of the elephant seal patients at feeding time on Thursday! Copyright NaturallyHillary.wordpress.com

Some of the elephant seal patients at feeding time on Thursday!
Copyright NaturallyHillary.wordpress.com

Record Numbers At The Marine Mammal Center

We were now at almost 200 animals at The Marine Mammal Center this year. Those are record numbers! We haven’t had this many animals at the center at one time in something like 40 years. There is an algal bloom in Monterey Bay that supposedly is contributing to the problem in addition to other conditions. The NBC Bay Area News was there on Thursday while I was volunteering filming a story about it. Here is a link to the story along with some video footage of some of my crew-mates and some of our cute little patients.

If you’re interested in donating to help us feed so many hungry mouths, check out TMMC donation page.

Hoppie, the wayward sealion pup who found himself 100 miles from the ocean wandering through an almond orchard. Image Source: www.facebook.com/themarinemammalcenter

Hoppie, the wayward sealion pup who found himself 100 miles from the ocean wandering through an almond orchard.
Image Source: www.facebook.com/themarinemammalcenter

12 Hour Days

Holy. Crap. Over 170 animals at the center now. We tube fed more elephant seals than I can remember today. This post covers this week and last week. Sorry I didn’t post last week. I had a full 12 hour day with no lunch last week and didn’t get home until late. This week was only an 11.5 hour day and I did get lunch.

This week is also apparently Volunteer Appreciation Week so they had ice cream sundays for us. I think we all deserve it. We are definitely in the peak of busy season. Every day we get more and more animals. Sure, we also have releases often, but more are coming in than going out. It’s always nice feeding then pens with free-feeders. Takes no time at all. The challenge comes when you have ones that aren’t supposed to be fed (aka “NPOs”) and you need to figure out if they’re are just NPO because of an exam or because of a surgery. If it’s a surgery, then you have to go through separating that one so the others can eat. It can be tough when dealing with feisty sea lions.

Last week, I was bitten on the leg by an ellie. Didn’t break skin. But definitely left a bit of a bruise. You get outnumbered when you’re in a pen trying to keep them away from a tube feeder but they’re coming from all directions. In zombie movies, I always wonder why people can’t just outrun the zombies. They’re slow and move so awkwardly. When you’re surrounded by hungry ellies flopping across the pen floor towards you honking and barking, you understand.

I get to the center at 7am. There are a few long time volunteers that get there at 3am! THREE! Can you believe that?! And then they stay until 6:30pm or 7:00pm like the rest of us. I live an hour and 15 minutes from the center. There’s no way I could get there that early.

Anyway, I’ll try to post again next week. ‘Til then!

Gigantic Turtle Bone Fossil Now Complete

A gigantic ancient sea turtle fossil piece was found in New Jersey back in 2012. After doing a little research, it was discovered that the other half of that same bone was found over 100 years ago and was being housed at the Academy of Natural Sciences at Drexel University. The puzzle was complete. Now they can say with a relative degree of certainty that the turtle the humerus came from was roughly about 10 feet long! Watch the video above to learn more.

 

Image Source: www.drexel.edu

Image Source: www.drexel.edu

Hefty Sea Lions!

I know I’m a bit late with this, I had a very busy day yesterday between volunteering at The Marine Mammal Center all day and going to a concert last night. There are now over 100 animals at the center! It’s crazy! I missed last week because I had some family in town and then I go in yesterday to find the patient population has over doubled.

First thing when I arrived yesterday was to help stuff meds into fish being prepared for the patients. Then everyone would sign out a pen and go feed. I signed out a pen that seemed simple enough- a free feeding California sea lion. When I arrived at the enclosure, I was met by a humongous adult sea lion. Most patients are babies, but the occasional adult will become injured or ill and need our help. The 2kgs of fish in the bucket should have tipped me off that he’d be a big one. I tossed a fish over the fence into the pool and he flopped in, displacing tons of water over the edge. I think it goes without saying that I quickly went in, tossed the rest of his breakfast in, and darted out. I wouldn’t want a big hungry sea lion coming out of the pool at me while I’m holding his food. There are at least two other very large adults as well.

Later in the day, at the 2 o’clock feed, I selected an enclosure that I soon found out had an even larger sea lion. We was sleeping in the sun outside the pool when I brought his food. I tried making some noise to wake him up, and I through a couple of fish over into his pool. He just looked over at me and then laid his head back down. I wasn’t about to go in there by myself. I recruited another person to come help and he splashed him with a little water and through a couple more fish in and he finally went in the pool and gobbled them up, not without a loud barky growl first, though.

The elephant seals were adorable and kind of dumb as always. There are way more now. I was able to get one little tyke to start taking fish in the water; he had previously only been hand feeding on the pool deck. It’s crazy to see how some of them learn faster than others to eat fish in the pool and find them under water while others can’t even get the concept of swallowing down!

I tube fed and restrained a couple. That never get’s old! We also had some ellies to weigh. That is somewhat easier than weighing sea lions. Sea lions need to be put in a carrier on a cart to be taken to the scale. Ellies are so big and dopey that you just hoist them into a wheelbarrow and push them to the scale like it’s a big stroller. They aren’t agile enough to get out.

Can’t wait to see what next week brings! We’re only getting busier and busier. I love it!