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Marine Mammal Center Sees Sharp Spike in Sick Stranded Sea Lions

Laguna Beach's PMMC is caring for 40 malnourished sea pups, up from just six a year ago.

The Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Canyon has noticed an increase in the number of severely dehydrated and malnourished sea lion pups requiring care this year, prompting the organization to put out a call today for help from donors and volunteers.

The center is currently caring for 40 malnourished sea lions, compared with six at this same time a year ago, said the PMMC's director of development, Melissa Sciacca.

The center's operators, however, are not too concerned because they experienced a similar increase in 2009, Sciacca said.

"It's a little early for us to be worried," she said. "It's definitely more than last year, but it does tend to fluctuate ... We're waiting to see how next month goes."

The sick sea lions are coming in from up and down the coast in Orange County, from Seal Beach to San Onofre, Sciacca said, adding it's unclear what's behind the lack of nourishment.

One of the center's volunteers, Wendy Leeds, found one sea lion pup nicknamed Rigby in a flower pot on a residence deck in Capistrano Beach about three weeks ago, Sciacca said. The sea lion weighed just 30 pounds and had patches of tar on him.

"So far he's doing well," she said. "He's still in intensive care, but making progress every day."

The PMMC has treated up to 107 sea lion pups at a time, so "we're fully prepared to handle more if need be," Sciacca said.

-- City News Service

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