SeaWorld's sea lion rescue team has its hands full - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

SeaWorld's sea lion rescue team has its hands full

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - SeaWorld's sea lion rescue team says they're seeing record numbers this year. They've already taken in well over 100 of the ocean mammals, a dozen just within the past few days.

"So far it's only the middle of March, and we have rescued 122 marine mammals. Whereas last year for the entire year of 2012, we only rescued 131," SeaWorld Rescue Specialist Heather Ruce said.

Scientists don't know for sure what's causing the record numbers, but they do offer one theory

"Perhaps, there isn't enough fish out in the ocean and they're having problems finding enough fish," Ruce said.

Sea lions have been rescued from all over the county including one that was spotted Saturday on the boardwalk in Pacific Beach. Many of them come in starved, or with visible injuries, sometimes caused by humans after getting tangled in fishing wire.

"This is sort of like walking into an emergency vet clinic," Ruce said.

The rescued sea lions are weighed, tagged, and given medication, as well as special nutrients.

"It is a lot of work, and this year with the amount of animals that we've had, we've had to increase our staff to cover all the needs of these animals," Ruce said.

A typical stay can last anywhere between one and two months, at which point most of them are returned back to the wild.

"Our ultimate goal in every case is to rehabilitate and return these animals to the ocean for a second chance at life," Ruce said.

Just because you see a sea lion washed up onshore doesn't mean it's in trouble. Experts say if you notice a sea lion has visible injuries, or looks like it's starved, contact a lifeguard. They will in turn call Sea World.

You can also contact the sea lion rescue team directly at 1-800-541-SEAL.

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