Oregon's Dying Sea Lions, near Astoria, October 2004

What a surprise
to beachcombers on October 10, 2004, the tide had been high during the night, and now at noontime 
lies a still-warm feeling sea lion California Sea Lion dead on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park.

tiny external ears differentiate a sea lion from a seal; more sea lion facts are found at page bottom.

 

 

"Struck with a bacterial disease known as leptospirosis, hundreds of sea lions along the coast of California are in danger of succumbing to the fatal - and highly contagious - disease. Marine experts are calling the illness an epidemic.
"If we don't treat them, they'll all die," said Dick Holm, a senior volunteer.
Leptospirosis, or lepto, as it is commonly called, is a bacterial disease passed most notably through urine. Lepto symptoms include high fever, severe headaches, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea and rash, according to information from the Center for Disease Control.
Lepto can be transmitted to humans as well, and Holm cautions people not to get within 25 feet of sea lions or swim in water the animals may have urinated in recently. (Note: the boy in the picture actually should not be touching this probably infected dead animal)
Dr. Frances Gulland, the Marine Mammal Center's director of veterinary science, said outbreaks like this occur every three to four years.
After the animals have received fluids and de-stressed, they are transported to larger facilities in Sausalito. The sea lions usually stay in Moss Landing for two to three days.
"The number one thing we need to do for them is to get fluids into them," Holm said. "It helps them get rid of some of the bacteria in their bodies."
Lepto is treated with penicillin.
Holm hopes the outbreak will stop soon, but doesn't see any promising signs.
"It's very contagious; cross-contamination is high," he said as he prepared to take a blood sample from Julio, a small light-brown sea lion that died from lepto that morning. "It's very sad."
The above text about sea lion disease was excerpted from an article By LAURA NORTON, OF THE REGISTER-PAJARONIAN..... Although it is not certain that the sea lion that I found on the beach was killed by this disease, that would be the probable cause of death, in my opinion.

A Few Sea Lion Facts

California Sea Lions are the most numerous type all up and down the Pacific Coast from California to British Columbia. They are commonly pressed into service as the circus seals we are all familar with. They weigh more than most adult humans, and large male specimens can weigh a half ton. They eat about 14% of their body weight every day, feeding mainly on octopus, squid, and fish. They are able to dive to 1,000 feet deep in search of their prey. This species is the fastest species of sea lion, seals or walruses, and can swim at 25 mph. Unfortunately, Killer Whales can swim at up to 30 mph, so are a very dangerous adversary.

 

Back to Main Oregon Coast Page

Page last revised 10-30-2004, Reviewed 5/14/2017