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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Things are starting to pick up at The Marine Mammal Center!

I’ve now volunteered at TMMC about a month and things are finally starting to happen. This week, there were several new animals including two ellies (elephant seals) and two Guadalupe fur seals. That brings the total to about 15 I think, the rest being California sea lions. That’s not including the harbor seals that I don’t work with. I think they have three now.

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Northern Elephant Seal Pups
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Today, for the first time, I was able to watch the more experienced volunteers tube feed one of the elephant seals. Very young ellies don’t know how to eat fish really so it takes a while for them to grasp the concept. One of the ellies was able to eat on her own but the other was not. I think there is one boy and one girl. Anyway, the ones that don’t eat get tube fed ESF, or elephant seal formula. I learned how to make that today. It’s basically a blend of salmon oil, ground fish, milk matrix, and water. Then, once they are tube fed, they go through fish school which basically involves waving fish in their face and trying to convince them that they want to eat it. I didn’t get to do that yet today. I’ve been told it can sometimes take a long time for them to learn and they’ll be tube fed for weeks or months.

Guadalupe Fur Seal Pup with Mom Image Source:

Guadalupe Fur Seal Pup and Mom
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The Guadalupe fur seals are both adult females. Fur seals (there are Northern and Guadalupe that we get at the center) tend to be more aggressive and feisty, especially adults. Apparently, these two were pretty lethargic and dehydrated when they came in but now they have more pep in their step. They had been tube feeding them because they wouldn’t eat fish but that got too challenging for the volunteers so today the vet staff was going to try. They decided to discontinue that. Both seals were getting to stressed and strongly resisting. The goal is to get the animals strong and well, and if they are strong enough to resist the tube feeding that much, it’s obviously not medically sound to continue stressing them out. They still won’t eat fish but maybe that’s because they’re feeling better and don’t want to be locked up and eating dead fish. They just got some injections and subcutaneous fluids and that was that. We left them alone.

At noon, there was a powerpoint/phone seminar thing with someone from NOAA explaining the process of how non-releasable animals are placed in permanent homes like zoos, aquariums, and the navy. That was informative and interesting.

I’m excited to see what next week brings! By the time the pupping season is well underway, I’m sure my days will be getting longer and longer and more exhausting. But those seals and sea lions are just so darn cute that it’s worth it.