Reporter’s Notebook: Witnessing a baby seal beaching in San Diego

Editor’s note: Just after reporter Karin Argoud completed this story on baby seal and sea lion beachings along the California coast, she herself witnessed a seal beaching while visiting family in San Diego. She shares her experience in this edition of Reporter’s Notebook.


 

During Spring Break, I went to San Diego to visit my father. He lives right on the water in California’s Imperial Beach. I had just finished my story for FSRN on baby seals and sea lions washing up alone on California shores. My father told me several local sea lion stories, including one in which a seal pup crawled up the beach and into a restaurant in search of food.

Sure enough on Easter as my family and I walked along the water’s edge after brunch, my sister pointed to a baby seal that slid in with a wave and started crawling – or I would say “scooching” up the beach under the pier. It seemed so small and sweet and helpless and right away I became its body guard, trying to keep children and parents and cameras away from it – while figuring out who to call and where to go for help.

In what seemed like only minutes, crowds swarmed around the baby seal like bees to honey! Some even reached their hands out enticing the pup to come nearer, like they would a cute dog. In the meantime, my aunt ran to get the lifeguards who luckily were on duty nearby. They drove over in a red truck that had a cage in the back. I waved them down, demanding (like an over-protective mother) they tell the people to back away. “Please back up – back up at least 50 ft!” they directed through a megaphone.

The two lifeguards grabbed the cage out of the bed of the truck and while one stood near the cage, the other carefully approached the pup.  He carried a rope that looked like a lasso attached to a stick and gently swung it around the mammal’s neck, pulling it toward the cage. The confused pup went reluctantly and within minutes was locked up in the cage.  “Yes,” I told myself, “it’s safely away from the crowds, but sadly in a cage on his way to Sea World.”

The marine theme park has set aside several pools to rehabilitate the mammals.  My heart ached for this small animal, so alone and lost.  As I watched the truck carrying the caged seal pup pull away, the reality of the story I had been working on sank in. The young seal was not only hungry, but scared and an orphan. And now, he was being taken away from the only home he knew – the ocean.

I wondered if we humans were doing the right thing, interfering with Mother Nature.

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