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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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:

Hoppie, the wayward sealion pup who found himself 100 miles from the ocean wandering through an almond orchard.
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So many noisy elephant seals!

We are now up to around 27 animals this season at The Marine Mammal Center. There are several fur seals, several elephant seals, and more sea lions. The elephant seals are very vocal. They let you know they’re there. One has a big open wound near his lower back that looks like something took a big bite out of him. Some of the ellies are eating on their own and some are not.

In addition to cleaning out a bunch of pens, I helped make more elephant seal formula. Then I got to help with tube feeding one of the new little fur seals still at the main hospital building. I put the syringe of formula on the end of the tube another volunteer had placed down the esophagus and into the stomach and pushed the formula through. I also helped later in the day doing the same thing with two elephant seals. I will start doing this and eventually work my way up to restraining and placing the tube.

Thursday day crew is assigned two pens to deep clean each week and two pens to weigh. So we had to weigh four baby California sea lions. They were quite a handful but we managed to get them into a big carrier and onto the scale. I then helped deep clean their pen while we left them blocked off in the isle way.

Later, I fed a fur seal by myself. This just involved throwing some fish into her pool and stepping out of the pen. I then went into a sea lion pen with another volunteer to feed two sea lions. One ate but the other only tore up and spit out the fish so we ended up needing to tube feed him and the vet staff did a physical exam. I just mostly watched for that.

I learned how to do fish school today. We tied some fish to a string and waved it around in the elephant seals’ faces and in the water trying to entice them. They weren’t having it. We also tried holding it up to them without string so they could sniff it. It can some times take weeks to teach them that they are supposed to eat fish so in the mean time they are tube fed.

There was one larger fur seal would wouldn’t eat. They ended up bringing in a live fish for it and, what do you know, it ate it! After that, it ate the regular frozen fish everyone else gets. It just took the stimulation of chasing a wild fish to get it’s instincts and appetite going.

All-in-all it was a good day at the center. My longest yet. I was there until 3:15p. I know the days will get longer and longer as there are more and more animals. There was still another 4:00p feeding but I left to try and avoid some traffic. I live an hour away from the center, after all.

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Tube feeding an elephant seal (image found on TMMC website)
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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.

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!Β 


Revamp and a Fresh Start!

Those of you that follow my blog may have noticed that I kind of dropped off the grid a while back. I got a new job and have been working a lot of hours (50+ a week) and I am also a full time student taking online classes to become a registered veterinary technician.

I apologize for the lack of posts.

Now I hope to start writing more again. This time it will be different, though. I cannot promise regular posts about consistent topics. Ain’t nobody got time for that! There will be Weird Wildlife Wednesdays from time to time but not every week. Sometimes I may write about or post interesting things that I come across and they will be related to all of my favorite topics: wildlife rehabilitation, veterinary things, nature, travel, books, etc. I will try to postΒ at least once a week.

I thank you for your understanding and hope that you find some of what I post interesting!