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!


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!

Fourty-four Animals!

We are up to 44 animals topside now at The Marine Mammal Center. Today was a looooonngggg day. I learned to restrain elephant seals for tube feeding. That basically involves straddling them on your knees and holding their flippers against their body with your knees. It kind of looks like you’re trying to ride them. I also learned to do the tubing itself. Basically, once they have their mouth open, you get the tube in the opening to their esophagus. Then it slides in pretty easy, then you blow in the tube and listen for stomach sounds to make sure you are in and aren’t in the lungs or something. When you hear that, you are good to attach the syringe.

While tubing, one of the little ellies spit up, which happens sometime, so I ended up with elephant seal vomit all over me. Now I know why it’s a good to have our slickers. Definitely need to launder them.

To sum up today, there were a lot of tube feedings, we had to weigh some baby sea lions, we had to do fish school for some ellies, and we had to move around a couple to different pens. There are two sea lions at the center now that have leptospirosis so even though we are always careful, we have to be extra careful about not cross contaminating.

It was a long day but it was definitely fun and every time I go I learn something new and love it even more!

I won’t be going next week so there will be no Marine Mammal Center post for two weeks.

Image Source:

Image Source:

Volunteering at TMMC (Feb 20, 2014)

Today marks my third week volunteering at The Marine Mammal Center. Still not many animals yet this season. There were two new California sea lions. I got to watch the veterinary staff examine one of them but it was through the fence of the pen so it was difficult to see. There was one harbor seal pup last week and now there are two but I still haven’t seen them. They’re very susceptible to diseases and are a little more delicate to take care of so they are housed in a different area and have their own set of volunteers. There is Topside (where I volunteer with sea lions, elephant seals, and fur seals) and then there is the harbor seal hospital.

So far they have been short workdays because the animal count as low but as the season progresses, I can expect longer and busier days. I plan to write each week about my experiences at the center that day. I am on the Thursday Day Crew.

In order to volunteer I had to go to an information meeting and an orientation. Then in order to be allowed in the pens with the animals I had to take a basic animal husbandry course. Once I’ve volunteered three months I can take the basic meds course so that I will be allowed to pull medications for the animals that need them. There are other courses that allow you to have different responsibilities but these are the ones I have taken so far. I plan to take the basic meds course in June. Unfortunately, with my busy work and school schedule, it can be somewhat challenging to fit everything I want to do in. But I am determined so I always find a way!

First Seal Orphan of 2014!

I have very recently started volunteering at The Marine Mammal Center and while there aren’t a lot of animals yet, I am already really enjoying it. This past week the center received its first new patient of baby season, a Harbor Seal they have named Puck. I won’t be volunteering with the Harbor Seals, they are kept in a different area from the Elephant Seals and Sea Lions because they are more fragile, but here is an article about the first pup of the season: It’s a Girl! Meet Our First Pup of 2014!