The El Niño rains haven't even hit us yet, but already a Southern California medical center is taking in patients from El Niño-related conditions. It's the Marine Mammal Care Center of Fort Mac Arthur in San Pedro.
There are 8 northern fur seal pups being nursed back to health at the facility. They are all about 5 months or so and came into the center in the last 30 days under-nourished and in need of help.
David Bard and Kristi Fera at the center say it's because the pups moms had to dive way below the surface water warmed by El Nino to find colder-water-anchovies, sardines, and herring to feed. It takes a long time. On the beach pups feel abandoned. They take off and die or are rescued and brought to the center for help.
Operations manager David Bard says he's "expecting warmer water, less fish, more sick and malnourished seals and sea lions" over the next few months. Maybe as many as 250 more than normal.
He started at the center as a volunteer 20 years ago and remembers the El Niño of the late '90s. He says there were "sea lion pups everywhere."
He started beefing up the volunteer team. He added awnings and shade cloth. They also made other improvements to the enclosures.
But, Kristi Fera says we can all understand why getting ready for what may be a very rainy few months is important to the animals. She says, "Just think about if you're sick and you're not feeling well the last thing you want to be is outside in the rain and heavy rain pour down on you."