Sea lion pup waddles into man's vehicle (Video)

SeaWorld rescuers didn’t have to go far early Wednesday to pick up another dehydrated and malnourished California sea lion pup. She was almost directly across the street from the marine park.

Rescue No. 296 of this year — an unusually high tally that’s part of a phenomenon plaguing mostly sea lions along the state’s coast — took place shortly after 5 a.m.

The incident began when Mike Delahunt, 46, of Pacific Beach was driving southbound on Ingraham Street toward the Balboa Golf Course, where he works as a course technician.

As his 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse approached West Mission Bay Drive, he spotted what he thought was a dog in distress laying on the stripes that divide the two lanes of the road. He has a dog about the same size, so he instinctively wanted to help the creature.

Delahunt got out of his car and left open the driver’s door. As he approached the animal, he realized it was a sea lion. “I still wasn’t going to leave her there,” he recalled. “I had to get her off the street.”

Once he put a towel over the pinniped and tried to nudge it toward the side of the street, it became agitated and started barking. Even though the pup was thirsty and hungry, it quickly waddled toward the driver’s door, lifted a flipper and pushed itself into the sedan, Delahunt said. Then it climbed onto the driver’s seat.

“Once she got in, I thought: ‘What do I do now?’ ” Delahunt said.

Moments later, an off-duty law enforcement officer stopped to see what was happening. So did two other motorists. As one of them called SeaWorld, the sea lion jumped into the back seat.

One of SeaWorld’s animal-rescue teams arrived about 20 minutes later. The site was just about a football field away from the marine park and its rehabilitation facility.

Delahunt said he plans to call SeaWorld today to see how the pup is doing.

“I’ve never had anything like this happen before,” he said, “but I’d do the same thing again to help an animal in crisis.”

SeaWorld officials estimated that the sea lion is about 8 months old. It has tar on parts of its fur and a small wound on its left side, and it weighs only about half the standard weight for its age. The pup is getting cleaned up, fed and tested for any other complications, said SeaWorld spokesman Dave Koontz.

“We’ve never done a rescue this close and on a city street,” he said. “The team is optimistic, based on her initial intake exam, that this sea lion will make a full recovery.”

Of the 296 stranded animals that SeaWorld has taken in this year, 278 have been California sea lions. That surpasses all of the park’s rescues for 2011 and 2012, but still short of the 470 rescues in 1998, a year made turbulent by El Niño conditions in the sea.

Marine mammal centers in Southern California have taken in more than 1,000 starving sea lion pups this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA. The agency declared a “marine mammal unusual mortality event” for California last week.


Responses to "Sea lion pup jumps into San Diego man's car"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Well done chap

  2. Unknown says:

    She knew she was in trouble, and reached out .... Glad someone was willing to help her. God Bless people who rescue animals in need.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Well done indeed !!! Good thinking! Good reaction! KUDOS :)))))yay.hope insight prevails

  4. Morgana says:

    Thank you guys for treating the baby sea lion.

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