Feeding Sea Lion Pups
Sea Lion Blog

Feeding Sea Lion Pups

I woke up to another beautiful, sunny day here in…

I woke up to another beautiful, sunny day here in California! The sounds of seal and sea lion vocalizations (particularly elephant seal vocalizations) could be heard from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center parking lot as I pulled up to the facility. These sounds never get old!

Today we had a pretty large group of volunteers, so I ended up starting the morning off tube feeding the nursery pups their first meal of the day. Typically, sea lion pups will nurse with their mothers for 10-11 months; however, these pups were found malnourished and abandoned at a much younger age. Since these pups have not learned how to eat fish on their own yet, they need to receive their nutrients from another source that we call “gruel”.

Gruel is essentially a fish smoothie often of blended raw fish, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, fish oil and water.

PMMC is currently housing around 50 nursery pups that need to be tube fed 3-4 times a day. If you do the calculations, that is a lot of tube feeding! Kristy and I teamed up again today for the feeds. There are two pens of nursery pups so one of us did the restraints for the first pen while the other was tubing and then switched roles for the second pen.  For each feed, there is a chart of every animal in the nursery and how much gruel each receives under their name. Along with gruel amounts, if any animal needed to receive a medication, it would be listed on the chart as well.  As each animal is brought out from the nursery for their feed, their Farrell Marking System number was read off before their gruel was measured out.

Some of the pups have begun the process of slowly weaning off the gruel to an all fish diet. Once they get their tube feed, they also receive a small amount of fish in a bowl with some water in it. Eventually the goal is to get them eating their entire meal of fish in the bowl and then easing them into the outdoor pens where they will have to forage for their meal in a pool with other sea lions. This mimics the competing for food that they will have to do in the wild once released.

tube feed prep_apr 5 blog web

We had four different teams for the feedings today and we were able to get all 3 rounds of feeds done in record time! The squirmiest of the pups was little miss “Avocado”. She is such a tiny pup and looks so cute and innocent, but restraining her for the feeds was quite the challenge! It is always a great sign when you get a feisty animal though!

Every day, it seems as PMMC has around 4 or 5 new patients being admitted for rehabilitation. Today, one of the admits was a sea lion pup who had a fishing hook embedded in her head above the eye. Luckily, the hook was just under the skin and was removed by the veterinary staff before it caused a lot of damage. These types of entanglements and wounds from derelict fishing gear are reminders of the damage that we as humans are causing the environment. Luckily this hook was caught in time before infection had set in. Other animals out in the polluted ocean; however, too often don’t get a second chance. This little pup will spend some more time at TMMC to fatten up before release. Hopefully this is her last time with a fishing hook encounter and a reminder for us all to keep the ocean clean!

Until tomorrow,
Sarah Callan

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