Sea lion found resting in patio chair at La Jolla hotel part of unexplained starvation trend [VIDEO & STORY]

YouTube Preview Image
• VIDEO: Watch a SeaWorld team member rescue the sea lion found at a La Jolla hotel by clicking on the image above, or go to:

A reader residing on Coast Boulevard submitted this photo to the La Jolla Light just days before the sea lion was discovered at the Pantai Inn. The Light is awaiting further details on the location of this sea lion from the e-mail's author. Does this patio look familiar? If so, contact the La Jolla Light at

By Pat Sherman and Ashley Mackin

An employee of Pantai Inn on Coast Boulevard discovered an unexpected guest lounging in a chair on the hotel’s dining patio early Tuesday morning, March 26 — a roughly 8-month-old California sea lion.

“The person working here overnight saw something on the security camera, went out and saw that it was a baby sea lion,” guest services agent Veronica Covert told the La Jolla Light. “We checked the security footage and it came over (from the beach) at about 5:45 a.m. and sort of sat next to the chair for a little bit and then propped itself up on the chair and made itself at home. It stayed there for a few hours until SeaWorld could come.

“We get plenty of seagulls,” Covert added, “but it’s the first time a baby sea lion has wandered over.”

SeaWorld rescuers arrived at about 9:30 a.m., and found the 27½-pound, female pup dehydrated and malnourished.

The female pup is on the mend at SeaWorld’s Animal Care Complex, where it was tube-fed and given fluids upon arrival. It was scheduled to receive a full examination once its condition had stabilized.

Monica DeAngelis, a marine biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told the Light that an unusual number of sea lion pups rescued recently off the coast has led NOAA to declare the trend an “unusual mortality event.”

“Sadly, the number of pups stranded off the (Southern California) coast is not typical for this time of year,” DeAngelis said. “We suspect the animals are starving, but we don’t know why they aren’t finding the food. My agency is investigating.”

SeaWorld Director of Communications David Koontz said that more than 90 percent of the approximately 150 rescued animals in its care now are sea lion pups.

Though the sea lions are being rescued from as far south as Imperial Beach, Koontz said the majority of them are being discovered along the coast from La Jolla north to Oceanside.

SeaWorld has rescued 246 sea lions “and counting” since the beginning of the year, Koontz said.

“Our animal rescue team is rescuing a dozen or more (sea lions) on a given day,” he said. “Most are pups that were born last summer and weaned from their mother in the last three or four months.”

Koontz said the pups are dehydrated and malnourished and about 10 to 20 pounds below the weight they should normally be at this point in the first year of their lives.

SeaWorld has not observed the same problem with adult sea lions, leading rescuers to believe that there is no problem with the food source, only its availability to pups. One theory is that the fish they feed on could have moved to deeper waters, Koontz said.

The pups get both nutrition and hydration from the fish they eat.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Koontz said.

Upon arrival at SeaWorld, the sea lions are tube-fed until they are able to eat solid fish. Once it is determined that a pup is strong enough to survive on its own, and has gained enough weight, it is placed on a transport boat and released about 10 miles off the coast, in an area where there are other sea lions and or a known food source.

SeaWorld staff drew blood from the sea lion rescued at Pantai Inn and found nothing wrong with it. It is currently in stable condition at its rehab facility, Koontz said.

“Our goal is never to release an animal too early,” Koontz said, noting that given the high number of animals currently under its care, SeaWorld would neither be prolonging or abbreviating the animals’ stay pending NOAA’s findings (he said  in a prior interview with the Light that it is not SeaWorld’s policy to make the animals they rescue dependent on humans).

“We have no anticipation that this is going to let up any time soon,” he said.

Pantai Inn employees said the security camera filmed the sea lion scooting up steps at the front of the property, and onto the patio. It is believed the pup made its way up from the beach by hopping up more than 50 cement steps on the opposite side of Coast Boulevard. A representative from SeaWorld said seal lions have an amazing ability to maneuver steep rock outcroppings and other obstacles on land. A few years ago SeaWorld rescued a sea lion that had made its way inland to the parking lot of Chevy’s Mexican restaurant in Del Mar.

Related posts:

  1. UPDATED (3/21): Mayor orders Children’s Pool in La Jolla closed after dark through May 15
  2. Mayor shares details of recently installed ‘seal cam’ at La Jolla Children’s Pool
  3. Mayor extends length of pupping season rope at La Jolla Children’s Pool
  4. UPDATED: City Attorney says ‘shared use’ working as La Jolla seal rope reinstalled
  5. Coastal Commission to rule on year-round seal rope July 11

Short URL:

Posted by Pat Sherman on Mar 28, 2013. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News, Seal Watch. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

3 Comments for “Sea lion found resting in patio chair at La Jolla hotel part of unexplained starvation trend [VIDEO & STORY]”

  1. Cheri Jacobs Aspenleiter

    The reason the pinnipeds are starving is because they have exceeded the carrying capacity of the local ocean environment. The underwater ecology has become void of normal food for these marine mammals. The Great White Shark’s numbers decreased due to over-hunting them, and so their normal fare, seals and sea lions have over-populated, especially since Sea World began releasing rehabbed ones in the La Jolla areas, especially The Children’s Pool ;polluting it. I snorkel these areas and recently went in search of a live mussel. After an hour and a half I was able to locate only one live mussel. This is a very important and very serious sign that the food for the pinnipeds is gone. The seals will be starving next, they probably are already. An adult seal eats 8% of its body weight a day, or about 8 lbs. of food. There are several hundred if not thousands of seals and s. lions in La Jolla now. I hardly ever see fish, rarely an abalone, I’ve only seen one sea star in three years, and one limpet, all need mussels to eat. The seals have been eating them as well , and now this important food source is all but gone. It is sad to me that a full fledged study was not initiated upon the release of the first rehabbed seal from Sea World and the ever increasing population of them and the resulting environmental consequences of such an increase. The study would have given warning to properly manage and care for these loved mammals. An interesting development is that the White Shark has just been placed on the endangered list and can not be hunted. Shark populations will begin to increase and they have plenty to eat. Another study that should have been started that would prove to be interesting is the relationships between the seals and humans. At Children’s Pool is is a good example of how well seals and people do get along. But you would not know this or realize it ever, unless you SWIM in the ocean and have come to know the seals in their own environment that you share with them. The Children’s Pool Seals have imprinted on humans since birth now for generations of seals and are not afraid of people for the most part, especially when you respect them and share the sea. The seals then come up to you when you are swimming, without any threats to you what-so-ever and even touch you very gently. Mothers will bring their pups right up to your lap. That is not normal for a ‘wild’ animal. The fact is the seals in La Jolla are fond of people, and the people trying to Save Children’s Pool realize this. And realize that their numbers need to be managed for their own good. The people who claim to care for the seals, have mounted cameras to watch them, are going to watch them starve as a direct result of prohibiting the City from gently persuading them /relocating them just a football field away at Seal Rock and Shell Beach and other places to even out their numbers in relation to the ecology and its delicate balance. Children’s Pool is NOT a healthy environment for seals as cute and wonderful as they are. Ellen Scripps built the pool for kids and the infirm, not for seals, the sand is not even natural there. Either relocate the seals or they will starve. People trying to keep them penned in at Children’s Pool, are really not protecting them as it is NOT a natural environment for them at all. Children’s Pool could be the best ADA Ocean swimming pool in the world, as it was built for this reason. .The Ramp there is one of the very first disabled ramps to the high water mark on any beach in the state. It was used for pedestrians for decades as the many photographs and local memories do prove. The plans for the tower and shower remodel must be stopped until an ADA ramp to the high water mark is built as per the recent law for ADA access to beaches. The architects have included a handicapped shower, but no access to the high water mark for a wheel chair swimmer to be able to swim and therefore need a shower. People who truly care for seals and for disabled people should demand that the seals be relocated and the Children’s Pool completely restored , and a plan to reduce the numbers of seals via relocation for their own good and for the underwater ecology.

    • Anne

      The seals have been living in that area for decades, if not longer. Many years ago, Seal Rock, a large flat rock just off shore from the Children’s Pool at the foot of the cliff, was a their favorite spot to haul out and rest, back when the Children’s Pool was used exclusively by people. Unfortunately in the 1980′s swimmers began swimming out to Seal Rock and harassing the seals. The seals would dive off the rock, and the swimmers would climb on. After numerous complaints, the SD City Council made Seal Rock off limits to swimmers, and the seals became protected marine mammals. The seals returned to Seal Rock, and gradually moved on to the beach.
      That’s how this all started.

  2. Cheri Aspenleiter

    Seal Rock has the worse rip tide in Southern California, and swimmers avoid it because it is so dangerous. And it is really hard to harass a seal since they love humans so much. It is really the other way around., they come up to swimmers and pet the swimmers all the time. It is a perfect example of how well humans and seals get along. Of course now, the seals are starving to death and actually eating each other. Right now on the web cam at the Children’s Pool, watch them . People who claim to be ‘for’ the seals are making lots of money from donations, and now they are making even more opportunity to take advantage of the seals now that they are starving. Its is a terrible situation. Very very poor marine mammal management, and its no mystery NOAH. Too many seals and sea lions=exceeding the carrying capacity of the underwater environment. The age old Law of Supply and Demand. The seals can go to any beach, a wheelchair swimmer ONLY has the Children’s Pool. It is the only breakwater protected human ocean swimming pool in the Cont. U.S.;specifically designed for the disabled and for the elderly and for children.

Leave a Reply

La Jolla Community Calendar


Bottom Buttons 1

Bottom Buttons 2

Bottom Buttons 3

Bottom Buttons 4

Bottom Buttons 5

Bottom Buttons 6

RSS North Coastal News