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Volunteers needed for care and rescue as seal pupping season begins on California coast

Marine Mammal Center volunteers assist in a seal rescue
Courtesy: Dianne Shannon
Marine Mammal Center volunteers assist in a seal rescue

The Marine Mammal Center's Field Office in Morro Bay is looking for volunteers to help out during the seal pupping season.

Every year during the winter months, hundreds of seals make their way to Central Coast beaches to breed and have their young.

The busy season for elephant seal pups lasts from January to April and then an influx of harbor seal pups follows.

San Simeon, in northern San Luis Obispo County, is a prominent breeding site for seals on the California coast.

Aliah Meza is the operations manager for the Marine Mammal Center’s Morro Bay Field Office. She said about 28 days after giving birth, seal moms leave their pups.

“That pup is left on the beach to figure out life — how to be a seal, how to provide for itself — and then sometimes they don’t do so well," Meza said. "And that’s about the time that we see them at the Marine Mammal Center.”

Meza said the Center is actively recruiting volunteers to help out in the areas of rescue and response, animal care, patient transport and education and conservation roles.

“As the world’s largest marine mammal hospital, the volunteer service here at the hospital is especially crucial as we approach the busy seal pupping season along the Central Coast,” Meza said.

Meza said a lot of the animals in need of care are experiencing malnutrition, illnesses or infections. She said when volunteers are able to help heal and re-release seal pups, they are doing a service to the wild seal populations.

“They’re going out learning how to respond to animals, they’re provided trainings so they can do so safely, and even training on site on how to provide care for those animals once they are in our hospital,” Meza said.

Volunteer applicants must be at least 18 years old and out of high school.

Interested members of the public can submit their volunteer application by January 1, 2022 at the latest to be considered for the New Volunteer Training on January 8, 2022.

Meza said if any member of the public comes across a marine mammal in need of care, the best thing to do is call the Center’s hotline at (415) 289-SEAL.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.
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