Sea Lion Rescued After Crossing Highway 101 in Burlingame

Here's a crazy story from the San Jose Mercury News about a sea lion that was rescued by The Marine Mammal Center after it crossed a busy highway in Burlingame. (I volunteered for The Marine Mammal Center during the fall of 2005, and it was my very first hands-on marine mammal experience.  An AMAZING organization run mostly by volunteers...  Check out their website here!)

Photo Courtesy of Mike Baird
Sea lion rescued after crossing Highway 101 in Burlingame
By Patrick May
Posted: 10/01/2011 10:52:14 AM PDT
Updated: 10/01/2011 10:48:03 PM PDT

Sluglike, the beast lumbered across Highway 101, vaulting the median barrier, coming to rest on the shoulder of the Broadway exit, dazed and confused and now eight wide traffic lanes away from the bay it apparently emerged from early Saturday.

Not a good place for a sea lion.

Burlingame police got the call shortly before 7 a.m.

Fast Lane Freddy or Bayshore Betty -- take your choice, since the marine mammal's sex remains undetermined -- had somehow scooted up and across the freeway, a beautiful 150-pound blob of Zalophus californianus, now sitting in eucalyptus leaves, wondering to him/herself: "What the heck did I just do?''

"We got between a half-dozen and a dozen calls from motorists saying 'A sea lion just crossed 101!' " said Burlingame police Cpl. Laura Terada. "By the time we got there, he was heading down the ramp actually exiting into Burlingame. Then he sat on a tree stump, just chillin'."

While police discouraged the animal from leaving the scene of a crime (and we have to assume jaycrawling across 101 violates some law or another), volunteers from the Marine Mammal Center in Marin County rode to the rescue. They scooped up the creature with a huge net, then used herding boards to nudge the scofflaw into a carrier crate for the trip to Marin.

The California Highway Patrol shut down the exit for two hours to prevent motorists from injuring the animal and vice versa.

The veterinarians would try to mend the mammal -- it was stressed, and there was apparently damage to its jaw, though police said the sea lion had not been struck by a vehicle.

"I'm thinking it already had a broken jaw and that's why it came out of the water," Terada said. "Maybe he couldn't chew his food, so he came out of the bay and ended up on 101."

Jim Oswald of the Marine Mammal Center said the veterinarians would try to figure out what caused the animal to become disoriented in the first place. He said "they can do an EEG" -- a test that measures and records the electrical activity of the brain -- "and see if there are any signs of epileptic seizures. They can be indicative of toxic algae poisoning, which can disturb the brain and interfere with their navigational skills."

Fortunately, Freddy/Betty undertook his/her highway crossing at an opportune time; rush hour could have been far more problematic, Terada said.

"Luckily, it was early Saturday morning," she said. "I mean, he managed to cross eight lanes of traffic, so it couldn't have been that busy."