Santa Barbara Oil Spill

I was so sad to hear about the Plains All American Pipeline oil spill this occurred this past Tuesday off the coast of Santa Barbara County in California. The spill ended up being five times worse than they originally thought. While clean up efforts continue, the long term effects on the marine life and environment are yet to be seen. We are still seeing effects on the marine life from the Deep Water Horizon oil spill that took place in the Gulf back in 2010.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris has this to say:

“California’s coastline is one of the state’s most precious natural treasures. This oil spill has scarred the scenic Santa Barbara coast, natural habitats and wildlife. My office is working closely with our state and federal partners on an investigation of this conduct to ensure we hold responsible parties accountable.”

This spill hits a little closer to home for me. I live in northern California, and I volunteer with marine mammals like the California sea lions and elephant seals being effected by this spill. In addition, fish, birds, and other wildlife are being affected by this spill. Apparently, it is the only major pipeline in the area without an automatic shut off valve because of the previous owner somehow talking his way around the requirements back in the ’80s. That is unacceptable. As of today, they still hadn’t found the segment of pipeline with the leak.

In an MSNBC article, it is reported that:

“The oil transportation company has been fined at least 10 times for oil spill violations in four other states between 2004 and 2007, according to reports. The Houston-based company has been deemed the “worst violators” by the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration.”

This company needs a kick in the butt. They should be shut down. That many violations and failure to have an automatic shut off valve?! It makes me sick just thinking about it. We can only hope that this was a lesson to them, and that they will be held fully responsible.

Another Day at TMMC: Poking Butts

Well, I have finally been able to take the basic meds and advanced meds courses at The Marine Mammal Center meaning I am not able to do injections and subcutaneous fluids. I took the advanced meds class on Tuesday night so Thursday was my first day poking butts. I didn’t do any subQ fluids, I just helped with intramuscular injections, most of which were phenobarbital for the patients with seizures. It is definitely more nerve-wracking that doing IM injections on dogs and cats at work. The animals are larger, moving more, and have a pool to escape into. I’m certain I will get used to it and better at it with time, I just need practice. I’m just glad the rest of my crew is being patient with me.

Other than that it was a pretty normal day at the center. More and more animals being released each week. I think we should be getting some baby sea lions soon as this is now the time of year when they are being born. The days are definitely leaving us with more free time for now though. I like to keep busy but at the same time, this is giving us more opportunity to do fish school with the ellies that need it and more opportunity to do things at a leisurely pace. I took a couple of pictures of one of our sea lion patients this past week. It was so funny, he was trying to climb up the wall and look into the next pen. I don’t know if he had a friend over their, if he was just bored because his 2 pen mates were sleeping, or if he was just curious. Either way, it was funny to watch. You’ll notice that you can see his ribs, waist, and shoulder blades in the picture. He is malnourished and that is one of the reasons he is being treated here. We need to get him fat and healthy and back into the ocean. You should not be able to see any bone structure on one of these guys.

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Sunday Funday Hike: Rancho San Antonio County Park & Open Space Preserve

Yesterday, we went on another short hike in Rancho San Antonio County Park in Los Altos, CA. There is plenty of parking around and a lot of trails. We didn’t really plan this one out like the last one. We just kind of went to the park and started off down some trails until we decided we were done and turned back. We started at one of the parking lots and went down the Permanente Creek Trail, then onto the Lower Meadow Trail, then onto the Farm Bypass Trail until it connected to the Coyote Trail, then we followed that to the Wildcat Loop Trail. We basically started out just following the signs that directed us to the Wildcat Loop Trail. I’m not sure the exact milage of our hike but going out and back took about an hour and 45 minutes. Some parts were more wooded than others and there weren’t too many hills. We saw a couple of lizards and several squirrels. There were also little bridges along the trail crossing over some creeks. It was definitely a nice leisurely hike and I would like to go back to the park and explore some of the other many trails sometime, too!

 

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No hike, but some elephant seal fun!

Well, the boyfriend came down with a nasty virus so unfortunately, there was no hike this weekend. It was even my birthday weekend! But he is feeling somewhat better so hopefully next Sunday we can do another Sunday Funday hike.

I feel like haven’t written much about The Marine Mammal Center lately. That’s because things have somewhat slowed down. It is nice to have time to sit down and take a coffee and lunch break for a change. The ellies are slowly but surely learning to eat and compete with each other and each week more are released. Soon we will hit a peak again but this time with California sea lions. Each year, most baby sea lion pups are born in June, and since we have just entered june, it is only a matter of time before they take over. That isn’t to say that we haven’t had plenty of sea lions already, but we soon shall have plenty more.

This past Thursday, BBC had a camera crew at the center filming a documentary. Myself and two others from my crew were “volunteered” by our crew-mates to wear microphones and be filmed working with the elephant seals. Specifically, they wanted us wearing the microphones to catch some of the vocalizations of the ellies while we did fish school, which involves tying a string around the tail of a fish and dragging it around the water in the hopes that it will trigger predatory instincts in the pups. One of the others with me wore a GoPro camera on her chest to catch the volunteers perspective during fish school and hand feeding. Then, they used a pole with a GoPro on it to get the ellie’s perspective during fish school and hand feeding. They also took some other video clip angles while we were feeding a pen, including some underwater shots. I think it goes without saying that the pups were very interested in the camera and kept trying to bite at it! They’re so curious, I love it. I don’t know when that will air but I will post it or link to it as soon as it does. That way you all can get a glimpse at some of what we do there!

In the mean time, here is a picture of one of the elephant seal pups being curious as always!

One of the curious elephant seal pups I volunteer with!

One of the curious elephant seal pups I volunteer with!

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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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

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!