Sea lion pup finds help in Redondo Beach and is now recovering at San Pedro – Orange County Register facility

When an emaciated sea lion pup needed help recently, it may have instinctively known where to go — to a warm kitchen with a stove to curl up next to.

And a kitchen at Redondo Beach’s King Harbor Yacht Club is exactly where he landed last week, during a pit stop on what is sure to be a tumultuous journey that began somewhere in the ocean and eventually ended with his carefree resting facility in San Pedro – at least until the pup is fit enough to return to the wild.

It was around 9pm one day last week when the pup, around 6 to 7 months old, somehow managed to crawl onto a dock, up a ramp and around a back patio to slip through an open door that led to the kitchen at King Harbor Yacht Club in Redondo Beach.

The puppy caused a stir.

“Things calmed down after dinner and (I ate) with some friends,” said Pat Light, chairman of the board and chairman of the Club 280 Yacht Club Way volunteer membership. “Lupe[Ruiz, the food service manager]comes up to me and says, ‘We have something in the kitchen that I need to show you.”

Light followed her into the kitchen – and there was the puppy.

“I go back there and I see this little sea lion right in front of the oven,” Light said. “I thought, ‘Well, that’s unusual.’ And everyone says, ‘What do we do?’”

Good question.

They called 911.

“Everyone was intrigued,” Light said. “Everyone was taking pictures and someone said maybe we’ll just give him some salmon and let him out on his own, but I said he was too small and didn’t look good.”

The pup fell asleep too, she said, and snuggled up near the stove where the floor was warm.

Police officers responded and eventually someone contacted the rescue group, which works with San Pedro’s Marine Mammal Care Center, a functioning rehabilitation facility that takes in sick and injured sea lions and harbor seals – where the pup is now recovering from malnutrition. He has a good prognosis.

“The guy just yanked him up by his tail and carefully placed him in a (plastic) pet carrier,” Light said. “Then (the puppy) made a noise; he was not satisfied with that.”

Lauren Palmer, resident veterinarian at Marine Mammal Care Center, got the call late at night on Thursday January 26th and decided to come in.

“We got the call around 9 a.m. Thursday night and it wasn’t until 10:30 p.m.,” she said. “He was so skinny he weighed about 31 pounds, so we included him.”

Palmer said the pup – nicknamed “King” after the yacht club – needed tube feeding and hydration.

“Honestly, I didn’t think he had much time that night,” Palmer said.

But he recovered well — he weighed 37 pounds as of Tuesday, Jan. 31 — and is now eating “pretty big fish,” Palmer said

The prognosis, she added, is good.

“I haven’t found any health issue at this point,” Palmer said, “other than malnutrition, and we can correct that.”

The center wants him to “double or triple his original weight,” so he’ll likely stay there for six to eight weeks before being released to his “natural home” in the ocean.

“It was very unique,” said the center’s new CEO, John Warner, who is from a previous center in Sausalito.

“This animal was very emaciated,” he said, adding that the pup appeared to seek help by surfacing from the ocean.

“We’ve had some weather events lately with some pretty wild waves and tides,” Warner said.

The pup was likely separated from its mother, he added.

“To me, it’s really a great story of a group of people doing exactly the right thing,” Warner said of the Yacht Club helping the pup, “and doing whatever it takes to help.”

Palmer agreed, saying the yacht club’s staff is “amazing.”

“You did everything right and were so kind; this pup couldn’t have been luckier,” Palmer said. “He picked the right place and the right people.”

Unfortunately, Warner said, more pups could be stranded in the coming months, typically starting in March, in a year that was proving to be El Nino — which would make for turbulent surf.

For that reason, Warner said, it’s important that the public know how and how not to respond.

Here are some rules on what to do if you see a marine mammal in distress:

  • Call the Marine Mammal Rescue Center at 800-39-WHALE.
  • stay back; Federal law requires people to stay 50 feet away from the animals.
  • keep dogs away.
  • Notify a lifeguard.
  • Maintain visual contact until help arrives.
  • Provide rescue teams with photos, location, size and activity.

Aside from this advice on what to do, here’s what you shouldn’t do:

  • Disturb a stranded animal.
  • Try to catch it.
  • Put it in the water.
  • throw it in the water
  • Cover it with a blanket.
  • feed it

The cost of feeding King is about $50 a day, according to Warner, and donations for him and other patients are always welcome at

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