Elephant seal pups at risk during pupping season

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It's that time of year when the California Marine Mammal Center needs extra volunteers to handle sick and injured seals and sea lions. 

It's pupping season and unlike last year's stormy winter, this year has been good to seal and sea lion pupping colonies.

"They're able to stay with their moms as long as is biologically important for them and so they're going to receive the best maternal care that way," said  Marine Mammal Center Veterinarian Cara Field, who added that elephant seal pups have reached the most critical time of their young lives.

"Those animals are generally born in January and they nurse for a month and heir moms leave. So, if they did not get enough nutrition in that first month, they are not likely to survive," said Dr. Field.

That's when the Marine Mammal Center steps in, captures the animals and brings them to their Sausalito hospital for whatever therapy is needed.

The center is currently caring for two elephant seal pups, still bearing their infant black coats. They weigh a third of the 250 to 350 pounds they should weigh. Most of the rehab will be done by a small army of volunteers such as long time volunteer Jennifer Weller who says the work is always gratifying.

"Particularly when we work with the young pups that come in when they're really babies and we nurse them back to health, we teach them how to eat fish, we really get them to be big strong animals and to see them go back to the wide is just the most rewarding thing for us," said Ms. Weller.

"So, without our volunteers, we would be very crippled in the number of animals that we could look after," said Dr. Field  It's a mission of life. "Because we have so many volunteers, so much of the work is done by volunteers that the funds that we raise can go directly to our mission," said volunteer Weller.    

And who knows? The two elephant seals pups currently battling for their lives at the Marine Mammal Center, may now have a chance to grow up big and strong and become 4500 pound, 10-foot tall giants.