The Pacific Marine Mammal Center says so far this year, they have taken in 38 sea lion pups in need of medical attention for malnourishment and dehydration. The rescue group says at this time last year, they had only received six animals in need of help.
"Rigby" the sea lion was recently found hiding in a flower pot on someone's deck in Capistrano Beach. Wendy Leeds was sent to the rescue.
"He was only 30 pounds, suffering from malnourishment and dehydration, and had patches of tar all over his body. He definitely needed to come in," she said in a statement.
Rigby is still in intensive care, but the center says he is showing positive signs of improvement.
The time for the occurrence of stranded pups may have come early this year, according to Melissa Sciacca, director of development at the center.
"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," Sciacca said in a statement. "However, if the rate of rescues continues, we are fully prepared to respond."
Though they are prepared for anything, Sciacca also said it may be a bit early to be fully alarmed.
"Although we have more animals currently, it's still a bit early to be concerned," she said.
According to the center, rescue numbers vary from year to year. On average, they treat 200 animals a year, though some years have been as low as 110, and others have seen almost 300.
"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.
Sciacca asks that the public be on the lookout for any marine animals that might be stranded.
"They are federally protected by law, so please keep your distance," she advised.
Anyone who sees a stranded sea lion can call the Pacific Marine Mammal Center at (949) 494-3050. The center is also seeking donations from the public.
To learn more about the Pacific Marine Mammal Center or to make a donation, visit their website.