Wildlife officials and members of the public have seen higher than usual numbers of stranded or dead marine mammals and birds along southern California beaches in recent weeks. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the USGS National Wildlife Health Center are working together to document the size and scope of affected wildlife and mortalities. Stranding reports have included loons, grebes, cormorants, California brown pelicans, and California sea lions. Many loons are currently migrating through the Santa Barbara Channel on their spring migration northward.
Diagnostic testing is underway to determine the cause of illness and mortality and to rule out infectious disease. Some marine mammals and birds have shown signs of poisoning suspected to be from domoic acid, which is a naturally produced toxin caused by a marine algae that can create large algal blooms commonly known as red-tide. State and federal agencies continue to monitor and conduct research to better understand harmful algal bloom impacts on birds and marine mammals in the area. These analyses typically take several weeks.
Clinical signs of domoic acid poisoning in marine mammals and birds often include lethargy, swaying heads, seizures, and foaming at the mouth. Sea lions affected by domoic acid poisoning may be especially dangerous because they are often agitated, disoriented, and confused. For your safety please:
• Do not touch the sea lion.
• Do not allow pets to approach the sea lion.
• Observe the animal from a safe distance of at least 100 feet.
• Contact facilities listed below.
Wildlife officials encourage beachgoers to immediately contact the appropriate organization listed below to report the sighting. To report a live or dead marine mammal stranding you can call the California Marine Mammal Stranding Network Hotline at 866-767-6114 or contact your local stranding network member at the contacts below:
Along Ventura or Santa Barbara County Beaches:
To report a bird in distress: Santa Barbara Wildlife Care Network: (805) 681-1080
To report a marine mammal in distress: Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife (CIMWI): (805) 567-1505, http://www.CIMWI.org
Along Los Angeles County Beaches:
To report a bird in distress: International Bird Rescue: (310) 514-2573
To report a marine mammal in distress:
Malibu - California Wildlife Center: (310) 458–9453 [WILD] or http://cawildlife.org/
Pacific Palisades to San Pedro (including all beaches between them) - Marine Animal Rescue: 1 (800) 399–4253 [WHALE] or www.whalerescueteam.org
Long Beach - Long Beach Animal Control: (562) 570–7387
Along Orange County Beaches:
To report a bird in distress: Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center in Huntington Beach: (714) 374-5587
To report a marine mammal in distress: Pacific Marine Mammal Center: (949) 494-3050 http://www.pacificmmc.org
For more information on domoic acid and human health visit: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/Pages/fdbDomoicAcidInfo.aspx.