Sea lion pup discovered in Carlsbad couple's garden

Pup climbed three sets of stairs to get there

CARLSBAD, Calif. - A wayward sea lion pup was rescued Monday from a planter in front of Barbara and Ray Mullen's oceanfront home in Carlsbad. It was the fourth sea lion rescue of the day in what is turning out to be the most dangerous season for sea lion pups in recent memory.

The 6-month-old pup had to climb three sets of stairs to get to the Mullens' yard, where it was seen lounging next to shrubbery and strawberry plants.

The Mullens' standard poodle alerted them to the intruder.

"She was going really bananas," recalled Barbara Mullen. "Bark, bark, she couldn't stop, so I came down to see what all the barking was about."

When Barbara Mullen saw the sea lion pup, she called SeaWorld.

"He doesn't look very fat," she told 10News reporter Allison Ash. "I think he's a little skinny so he's probably left the nest too soon. He couldn't catch his own fish, so he's waiting to be rescued."

Within hours, two members of SeaWorld's animal care department arrived, wearing rubber boots and carrying large fish nets. They quickly pushed the pup into the net as he screeched and flailed.

"They can get quite aggressive and if a little child were to come up on them we wouldn't want somebody to get bit because they do come alive pretty quick," said senior animal care specialist Robert Lovato.

Lovato explained that the pup would be rehabilitated, fed and eventually returned to the wild.

He did not have any explanation for why the number of distressed sea lion pups is three to four times higher this year than it has been in recent history.

"Unfortunately, we can't tell you what's going on right now. National Marine Fisheries is just kind of trying to determine that right now," Lovato said. "We're just out here trying to do our jobs."

10News contacted a local representative of the National Marine Fisheries who said marine biologists are studying the cause of what they refer to as "an unusual mortality event."

Susan Chivers, who is based in La Jolla, told 10News there may be an oceanographic reason for the beached sea lion pups. It may be that the prey base has changed, and there are not enough squid or sardines for the pups to eat.

Chivers said "prime time" for weaning sea lion pups is in April and May, so the number of sea lion pups in trouble is expected to rise in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, SeaWorld encourages people who find sea lion pups in distress to stay away from them and call the experts at SeaWorld to rescue them.

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