Saturday, November 26, 2011

Life on the beach

This young male showed up with a fresh cookie-cutter shark wound on his side on Sunday, November 13. It's a nasty wound, deep. Shows how these small sharks prey on the much larger seals. Although they are less than two feet long, they can take a big bite.

Monday, November 14 attracted more sea lions to the white rock for which Piedras Blancas is named than I've ever seen out there. 

Plenty of long-billed curlews on the beach.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Piedras Blancas weather

Weather varies dramatically along the Central Coast. Last Monday I left Cambria warm and sunny but Piedras Blancas was very windy. By afternoon, the wind was strong enough to blow coffee mugs off the sale table.

A local supporter living in state parks employee housing about a mile north of Piedras Blancas Light Station near the old PB motel has installed a weather station on the roof of his house, about 60 feet above sea level and 100 feet or so from the edge of the bluff above the beach. Data is posted up to the minute on the web site. The wind increased from 6 mph to 9 mph in the time it took me to write this post!

Thanks for this helpful information.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Elephant seal rescued from plastic

Marine Mammal Center vounteers were able to remove a severely embedded plastic strip from a young elephant seal's neck last week. Friends of the Elephant Seal docent Joan Crowder took these photos of the rescue. Additional photos are posted on The Marine Mammal Center's site.

Every year, countless numbers of marine mammals find themselves entangled in ocean trash, all thanks to human negligence. On November 10, a large 700 lb. elephant seal was spotted at Piedras Blancas viewpoint with a green packing strap wrapped tightly around his neck. Many entangled animals are initially strong enough to escape rescue attempts and because they continue to grow, their entanglements become even tighter. In many cases, these animals die as a result of the entanglement restricting their ability to swallow or hunt effectively. As you can imagine, it can be a very slow and painful death.

Fortunately for "Green Tie," as he was nicknamed, his rescuers from The Marine Mammal Center were able to help him before it was too late!

Lisa Harper Henderson, site manager and rescuer for The Marine Mammal Center’s San Luis Obispo operations, gave this account:

"State Park rangers notified us on 11/8 that this big male elephant seal was on the beach in San Simeon and had a nasty entanglement. We knew low tide would be our best chance of getting him before he made a break for the water, and that low tide was to occur in the late afternoon on 11/10. A volunteer went back to the location on the 10th to see if the animal was still there. He was, so veterinary intern Dr. Michelle Barbieri headed down from Sausalito to meet us and make a plan of exactly how we would approach this big animal and safely capture and restrain him. We estimated him to be just over 700 lb. – the biggest animal we’ve responded to so far his year! "

It was quite the challenge to get the rescue net over this animal! After he was in it, he managed to escape through an opening and almost made his way back to the water. Fortunately, we were able to get to him before that happened and get him back into the net. Once secured, Dr. Barbieri sedated him, and in a few minutes was able to cut away the entanglement. She then thoroughly cleaned the wound and saw that new skin was already growing over the wound - a good sign of recovery! We put a flipper tag on him (on the left rear flipper since he was a male,) took a blood sample, and named him "Green Tie" after the green plastic packaging strap he had been entangled in. About 20 minutes or so after he was sedated, Green Tie woke up and went back into the water, lounging in the shallows nearby. He will be sporting a scar around his neck for his lifetime, but at least he now has a second chance at life, entanglement-free!"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Sea Turtle release in Florida

After five months of rehabilitation at The Turtle Hospital, Karsten, a 109-pound subadult loggerhead sea turtle, was released off of Sombrero Beach in Marathon, Florida Keys, and quickly swam away. Pictured releasing Karsten are Mike Puto and Turtle Hospital staff Jo Ellen Basile, Tom Luebke, and Richie Moretti (in blue shirts), along with several members of the Society of Environmental Journalists (photo by Larry Benvenuti). Twenty of the journalists were visiting the Keys this week and scheduled time to visit the Hospital and help release Karsten. Note elephant seal docent Gordon Heinrichs, in baseball cap, fourth from left, carrying Karsten's case.

Karsten was found floating on May 24, 2011, in a local canal by homeowners and was named after their young son. He had a fishhook in his jaw and another in his esophagus. The fishhooks were expertly removed by our volunteer veterinarian, Dr. Doug Mader of Marathon Veterinary Hospital, using an endoscope and grabbing tool. Karsten suffered from lockjaw as a result of his injuries and infection and could not open his mouth to eat.  Animal care staff stretched his jaw daily and fed him squid using a tube to place the squid down his throat. After months of this labor-intensive therapy, Karsten began to open his mouth a little on his own and was able to eat a few small squid.  He passed his big test recently and was able to catch and eat a live lobster: a sign that Karsten was ready to go home.   

There are 24 sea turtle patients at The Turtle Hospital, all available for viewing by joining one of the Guided Educational Programs offered at 10:00, 1:00, and 4:00 daily. Eleven permanent resident turtles cannot be released due to their injuries, most of them because of boat hit damage.  Other reasons turtles are under rehabilitation here include fishhook and debris ingestion, fishing gear entanglements leading to flipper amputation, infection, and, primarily in the green turtle population, a debilitating tumor disease called Fibropapillomatosis.  For more information or to make a reservation (recommended), please call (305) 743-2552.