The Pacific Marine Mammal Center declared a state of emergency Monday due to the influx of malnourished and dehydrated sea lion pups coming ashore on Orange County beaches.
The facility on Laguna Canyon Road — the only marine mammal care center for Orange County — admitted 18 sea lions Saturday and Sunday. Twelve came in on Saturday, the largest single-day total in the center's 42-year history, according to a press release.
As of Sunday, the center had 86 animals in its care, 84 of them sea lions.
"The last time the center received this many sea lions this early in the season was 1998," said Melissa Sciacca, PMMC's director of development.
Most of the malnourished or dehydrated animals are 8 to 9 months old, Sciacca said.
Los Angeles County is also seeing an increase in admitted sea lion pups.
Officials at PMMC and Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro could not speculate what may be responsible for the recent sea lion surge.
"We're a hospital," Sciacca said. "Our job is to get the animal home. Often the answers aren't found until the event is over and we're getting a bigger picture."
The Fort MacArthur center is the one facility for all of Los Angeles County and is experiencing a similar surge in admitted sea lion pups. The center has taken in more than 280 animals since the beginning of the year, said director David Bard. He said the center typically sees 300 to 500 animals admitted the entire year.
"Biologists have noted an increase in sea lion pup births and a decrease in the weight of those pups," Bard said.
PMMC officials urge the public to back away from a beached sea lion and call the center at (949) 494-3050. They suggest people not chase the animal back into the water.
Resources for treating the sea lions are slim with the influx. Space is at a premium at PMMC while money is needed for medicine, food, and vehicle transportation to and from beaches. PMMC has two rescue trucks with specialized crates to house the animals en route to the center, Sciacca said.
PMMC is accepting donations to help provide animal care. The center is at 20612 Laguna Canyon Road. Call (949) 494-3050 or visit http://www.pacificmmc.org for more information.
If You Spot a Sea Lion
•Do not approach the animal. Keep a distance of 50 yards.
•Call Pacific Marine Mammal Center at (949) 494-3050 to report the exact description and location of the animal.
•Keep others, including dogs, from approaching the animal.
•Do not attempt to push or encourage the animal back into the ocean, pour water on or feed the animal.
—Tips courtesy of Pacific Marine Mammal Center.