We rescued our first elephant seal pup yesterday. The pup was beached at Northpoint, at the north end of Morro Bay. That section of beach isn’t heavily used. There’s a small parking lot and perhaps half a dozen people walking on the beach, several with dogs.
It was a sunny, mild day. A light breeze blew the heat off our arms.
He was lying quietly on the beach 100 yards or so from the stairs leading down to the beach. He was thin, not a chubby round weaner, but the kind with a thin, tapering body. These weaners, photographed last year at Piedras Blancas, show the comparison. He had been unresponsive to the first rescuers on the scene who assessed his condition and made the decision to rescue him. When we got down on the beach with the animal carrier, he raised his head and opened his mouth to us. His teeth had barely erupted. I saw lower canines and a couple of small teeth farther back in the jaw. He didn’t have any wounds, but a small patch of tar on his shoulder.
The senior rescuer wrapped a towel around the seal’s head, burrito-wrap style, and the other resucer and I lifted and shoved him into the carrier. I didn’t take time to reflect on what his skin felt like. Not rough, not soft. Just skin with short hair.
He was mostly molted but retained some baby black coat on his flippers and fins.
He responded to our presence by raising his head in a threat, but didn’t follow through. He was, as far as a seal can be, cooperative.
Carrying the animal carrier up the steps was hard. Good thing we had four of us, including my strong husband, Gordon. We stopped twice on our way up to catch our breath. The entire carrier and animal weighed 39 kg. The pup weighed 26.5 kg.
Pups look cute, with their large dark eyes, and their relaxed behavior appears playful. When I got close to this animal, even though he was lethargic, I felt a rush of wild power. It was different from the energy of large domestic animals like horses and cows. His energy had a strong power of ocean wind and current.
I probably won’t call them ‘cute’ again.
We unloaded him and his carrier at the center. We weighed him and his carrier, then put him in a cage. We brought the carrier into the cage and then tipped it up to let him slide out. The concrete looks hard, but it’s no worse than lying on the hard packed sand, which he’s accustomed to. We set up his chart, named him Topsy, and started treatment for starvation. He got electrolytes via tube. He tolerated it well, not putting up much resistance. He was scheduled for a formula feeding at 8 pm. I'll lfollow his progress and track it here.