On the morning of June 5 Marine Animal Rescue received a call from a Harbor Patrol officer about a sea lion who had given birth on the Harbor Patrol dock in Redondo Beach.

seal ion pup

Pup resting safely with mother © P. Wallerstein

Normally, sea lions give birth on beaches which allows the pup to make an easy entry into the water to swim with its mother. When the pup tires, it can then easily return to shore to rest as mom nudges it from behind back to safety.

However, when born on docks, new born sea lion pups are too weak and inexperienced to hurl their small bodies back onto the dock once they tire from their first swim in the water. Because there are not any shallow, sloping jetties or safe places for the pup to haul out in the Redondo harbor, MAR decided to go check on the newborn in fear that it may struggle once it went into the water.


As we were in route, we got another call from the officer that the pup had fallen off the dock and was flailing in the water and struggling to stay afloat. However just as we arrived, the sea lion mother was already acting to remove her pup from harm’s way. She began pushing the pup up to the surface of the water to allow him to lift his head up to get a few breaths. She then pushed him toward the dock and attempted to demonstrate to her pup how to get onto the dock. But the tired pup was unable to clear the 2 foot gap between the surface of the water and the dock. Without hesitation, the mother quickly jumped back into the water and pinned the pup against the wall of the dock. Then she quickly jumped back onto the dock and grabbed the pup by the back of his neck with her teeth and slung him safely out of the water.

This is considered a rare behavior for a pinniped, but it is not surprising. These animals are intelligent and as this mother’s actions showed us today, capable of planning and conducting their own rescues when their pups are in trouble.

Mom is keeping a close watch on her 14 lb pup and so is MAR.

Peter Wallerstein
Marine Rescue Specialist
Friends of Animals

*200 Marine Animals Rescued by MAR in 2008

June 10 UPDATE:
We were all very concerned about the welfare of the newborn sea lion pup yesterday when mom took off in the early morning hours and left her pup alone on the dock. The pup fell off the dock multiple times during the day and had to be assisted back on the dock, his only chance of surviving. The sun was setting and mom hadn’t returned yet. Would she? We didn’t know for sure and leaving the pup alone for the night, his chances weren’t good of making through till the morning. Then, as we were deciding what could be done for the pup, we heard a recognizable vocalization, it was mom heading back to the dock. She returned with a young male sea lion who was also vocalizing very loudly. The pup, recognizing mom’s voice ran along the dock where mom and pup greeted each other. Mom jumped on the dock, layed down to expose her nipples to her hungry pup who didn’t hesitate to start nursing.

We were all so very relieved. The pup made it through another day.

The pup is still in a very serious situation. But, with a very dedicated mom and some limited human assistance the pup is defying the odds.