Neighbors help sea lion beached on boardwalk

Residents along 14th Street near West Oceanfront cared for a stranded sea lion overnight, pushing the beached mammal from the boardwalk to the sand where it would be safe from bicycle traffic.

At about 10 p.m. Tuesday, resident Fred Levine spotted the adult female sea lion leaning against his home's wall, about 1,500 feet from the ocean on the Balboa Peninsula. He left a Scooby Doo pail of water outside for the thirsty animal.

Reisdents called police for help and the city posted signs that read, "Marine mammals rest on shore. Do not disturb, it's the law!"

By 10 a.m. Wednesday, rescue workers from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center from Laguna Beach arrived with Newport Beach Animal Control and corralled the female sea lion into a pet crate, quickly taking off to perform another rescue on 22nd Street.

An official with Animal Control said there were other stranded animals at 40th Street and in Corona del Mar.

Levine said in the past month he's seen about five or six stranded sea lions along the beach, and programs that care for the animals are hamstrung trying to provide for the influx of beached marine mammals.

Two weeks ago, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center declared a state of emergency because of the sick and stranded sea lion population. San Pedro's Marine Mammal Care Center has seen a similar surge in caring for the ailing animals.

The Laguna Beach mammal center has so far rescued 200 sea lions this year.

"Animals are coming ashore in unprecedented numbers," said the nonprofit's director of development, Melissa Sciacca. "We've never seen so many animals come ashore like this in 42 years."

Currently, the center is caring for 127 animals, and it just transported another 15 to a care facility up north, Sciacca said.

That number doesn't include Wednesday's rescue, which had not been totaled at press time.

Newport Beach Police Department spokeswoman Kathy Lowe said sea lions have shown up in all of the city's coastal areas, including Corona del Mar, Little Corona and the span between the Wedge and the jetty.

Over the past week, police have received four to five calls a day about beached marine life.

Levine said he and about 50 other Balboa Peninsula neighbors rallied Tuesday night to save the sea lion on Oceanfront.

"I'm watching it dying in front of my eyes. I said no, no, no," Levine said.

Neighbor Mark Schoonover used a shovel to push the sea lion onto the sand, away from potentially dangerous bicycle traffic.

Another neighbor stayed awake overnight, keeping an eye on the animal.

Resident Rebekah Brown spotted another sea lion — possibly the one stranded in front of Levine's house — under the pier with a vomiting young pup.

Schoonover and Levine said they saw the same sea lion rescued Wednesday over the past few days, revisiting the area lying on the nearby blacktop of Newport Elementary School or out on the sand.

"It was on its way out," Schoonover said.

Levine wants to host a fundraiser to raise money for programs that are hurting in caring for the recent explosion in beached sea lions.

Sciacca urged residents who see beached sea lions to keep their distance, and call the Pacific Marine Mammal Center at (949) 494-3050. The center is receiving donations of non-flavored Pedialyte and monetary donations through the center's website.

Twitter: @lawilliams30

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