Wednesday, May 5, 2010

CA sea lion ~ 05/05/10 ~ Coast Guard Pier


California sea lion
Zalophus californianus

The literal translation of the scientific name is "Californian big head" for the obvious feature of mature males. Haha! I kid you not. The last time I posted about sea lions, I wondered if the larger individuals might be Stellar sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). Nope. I take that back after finding more information. I'm sure both small and large sea lions are Californian in the pictures above.

Large groups of young males have already arrived in Monterey. It seems kind of early. Last year we didn't see them until the end of May. I would have taken a picture of the masses, but I was close to retching from the horrid smell. There doesn't seem to be quite as many this year, but they still cover every available surface for sleeping. I wonder if the timing of their arrival has something to do with the squid in the area.

Sea lions are interesting to watch. You see them peacefully sleeping and think, awww, how cute... until one invades the space of another and a loud fight ensues. They're not my favorite animals in the world, but it's been good to learn about them.

ps 05/24/10 - During my typical early morning walk to the Coast Guard Pier, I encountered a scene that can best be described as extremely disturbing on so many levels. At the boat loading dock, I noticed a familiar photographer with a tripod, who was way too close to a newborn sea lion. WHAT?! Everything I've found online states we only have males here in Monterey and the birthing happens further south. Apparently this is not true and I've suspected this for some time. Sure enough the female was nearby with blood streaks from the birth all over the loading dock. I stopped to watch next to several temporary warning signs of how it's illegal to get within 50 feet of marine mammals, which were taped to municipal, white and orange plastic parking A-frames. Within a few minutes, a young fellow came out of the local kayak shop with a double-sided oar. He proceeded to whack the small sea lions with the oar. Again, WHAT!?! I hollered out, "What the h*ll are you doing!?!" He stated matter-of-factly that he was authorized and to ask his boss if I had any questions, who happened to promptly pull up in a Monterey City truck. I exchanged some not-so-nice-words with this boss who repeatedly told me (as if the verbatim repetition would somehow make me feel okay about what I had just witnessed) how the City of Monterey has authorization to do whatever it takes to get the sea lions off the boat loading dock... short of killing them, 'cause then that would be illegal. I pointed out that there was no one loading boats at the moment and asked why was it necessary to harass the sea lions in such a manner, especially with an exhausted mother and newborn nearby. It was after this that the young fellow dropped his oar and took up a water hose to move most of the sea lions into the water. I was left dumbfounded and started a conversation with the photographer. I asked him what he does with his photos. He said he e-mails them to researchers at Hopkins Marine Station, but it was his belief no one cared. Both the boss and the photographer had called the marine mammal hotline to report the newborn. I'm still sick over seeing this.

pss 05/25/10 - What? You thought I'd be quiet about this? I heard back from both NOAA and The Marine Mammal Center. Apparently, this is the first year they've had reports of California sea lions giving birth in the area. The pups generally die within a day. They're not sure why this is happening. I also received a link to NOAA's current policy on nuisance animals. Hmm...

pss 06/06/10 - Instead of water spray (or oars), they're now using an electrical wire on the boat ramp to keep the sea lions off. I wouldn't mind so much if the fellow doing it, previously with an oar, didn't appear so gleeful when he turns on the electricity to watch all the sea lions jump off as quickly as possible with some looking like they injure themselves falling over wooden barricades. I have pictures of a mother and her newborn here.

pss 06/27/10 - I don't know if my complaint had anything to do with it, but the fellow formerly of the oar has been replaced by some very defensive city workers who now only appear to use water from a hose to move sea lions.

3 comments:

A.J. said...

They do look so cute!

ingrid said...

Thanks for posting this, and for taking such an important stand for the sea lions. I'm stunned by the story of the female sea lion who gave birth -- and the callousness with which she was treated. How are things now, a couple of years later?

Katie (Nature ID) said...

I wasn't out much this year, so I'm not sure about the sea lion numbers or births. I hope there are some new procedures in place to keep this from happening again.