Among those rehabilitating at the center now is a sea lion pup nicknamed “Rigby,” found hiding in a flowerpot on the deck of a home in Capistrano Beach. Rescuer Wendy Leeds said he was 30 lbs, suffering from malnourishment and dehydration, and had patches of tar all over his body. “He definitely needed to come in,” she said.
The center located in Laguna Canyon treats an average of 200 animals each year, with its annual census ranging from 110 to 300. Marine biologist Keith Matassa was appointed its new director, the center’s board announced last week.
“Although we have more animals currently, it’s still a bit early to be concerned,” said Melissa Sciacca, development director. “We typically see this number of increased strandings closer to spring time, so it’s possible that our busy season is just starting a little earlier this year, which mean it may also end earlier. However, if the rate of rescues continues, we are fully prepared to respond.”
“We have handled as many as 108 animals at one time, and are well-prepared to handle many more than we have now if need be,” Animal Care Director Michele Hunter said in a statement.
Should beachgoers encounter a stranded marine mammal, she advises calling the center at 949-494-3050.