Tiny sea lion, party of one. A 20-pound sea lion pup was found sleeping in a booth at a popular seaside restaurant in San Diego, likely searching for a cozy nook and, fittingly, a bite to eat.
SeaWorld San Diego’s Rescue Team was called to The Marine Room restaurant on Spindrift Drive in La Jolla Thursday after staffers found the young sea lion curled up in a booth in the dining room, sleeping.
Somehow, the pup got into the dining hotspot and made his way into a booth with a scenic view of the beach below. Management wasn’t sure how the sea lion snuck in, but it appears he spent the night inside the restaurant.
The Marine Room's executive chef, Bernard Guillas, shared some photos of the whiskered patron on his Facebook page. In one of the images, also seen in the gallery below, the sea lion looks as if she's longingly staring at the sea below the restaurant.
As of Friday morning, Guillas' post had been shared more than 1,600 times on Facebook and had nearly 3,700 "likes."
SeaWorld rescuers were able to safely corral the 8-month-old California sea lion and take her to their Animal Rescue Center. There, caregivers determined the pup was extremely malnourished and dehydrated.
Jody Westberg, a SeaWorld Rescue Team member, said her team considers the sea lion a “micropup” due to her small size and low weight.
“She weighs 20 pounds, but should be about 40 to 50 pounds out in the wild,” Westberg explained.
She said SeaWorld San Diego has been handling many unusual sea lion rescues lately in part due to recent El Niño weather conditions.
“Southern California, and specifically San Diego County, has been having very high tides and very low tides, and also a lot of stormy weather. These pups are looking for high ground and warm areas for the night,” she said.
Westberg said the El Niño event also appears to be impacting food sources for some sea lions in California.
“Not only are they looking for high ground – they’re also searching for food,” she added.
She said an ongoing “unusual mortality event” is also heavily affecting the California sea lion population throughout the state. Because sea lions are having a hard time finding food sources, many wind up emaciated. The fish they typically eat in the wild keep the animals hydrated but without fish to eat, dehydration is common.
At SeaWorld San Diego’s Animal Rescue Center, the tiny pup was given fluids to rehydrate.
Animal experts were also keeping a close watch on the pup’s left eye, which remained shut and had some drainage coming out of it.
With proper care and nutrition, Westberg said the rescue team is “cautiously optimistic” the pup will be nursed back to health and eventually returned to the wild.
Over the past 52 years, SeaWorld San Diego has rescued more than 16,000 sea lions. So far in 2016, SeaWorld San Diego has rescued 47 marine mammals, including 40 sea lions, six harbor seals and one Guadalupe fur seal. In 2015, SeaWorld rescued a total of 990 California sea lions.
If you spot a sea lion or other animal that appears to be ill, injured or abandoned, you can call SeaWorld’s Rescue Hotline at (800) 541-SEAL.
On Jan. 21, another sea lion was rescued in La Jolla. That pup had climbed 145 steps to get inside The Cave Store, a shop that acts as the entrance to a manmade tunnel which delves down the cliffside and into the Sunny Jim Sea Cave.