SEASHORE, Calif. (AP) — Two juvenile California sea lions paused for a moment at the edge of the sea, each raising their whiskered faces toward the silvery water before sliding in to freedom.
For the Marine Mammal Center crew standing behind the rehabilitated pinnipeds on Thursday, it was a significant day: rescued sea lion No. 10,000, nicknamed Milestone, and 10,001, Zodiac Girl, had been nursed back to health and sent back to the wild where they belong.
“There’s always some attachment. There’s always some animal that captures your heart,” said Shelbi Stoudt, the center staffer who organizes these regular releases. “It’s a bittersweet feeling because you’re sending them back home but you also don’t get to see them anymore.”
This photo shows the orange tag placed on rehabilitated animals. We see orange tags occasionally on the beach at Piedras Blancas. More photos are on the HuffPo site linked above and at The Marine Mammal Center site.
The count to 10,000 includes all releases, elephant seals as well. The fact is, about 97 percent of the mammals rescued are sea lions, so the numbers aren’t all that far off.