Well, 101 1/2 miles to be exact — and that’s as the crow flies (or the car drives) not as the sea lion swims. But that’s how far inland a sea lion pup was when ranch hands in a California almond orchard recently found him, disoriented and “emaciated.”
Sea lions are a common sight around the bays of San Francisco, lounging and chortling in the sun. Veterinary staffers at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito figure that the youngster might have gotten separated from his mother, taken a wrong turn into the San Joaquin River and then kept on going until he was eight miles west of Modesto late last month.
(Click on the map to see a larger image. (A) marks Modesto, not where Hoppie was found. But the map shows the scope of Hoppie’s amazing journey.)
The ranch hands were so stunned, they called their boss, the Fresno Bee reports.
“I just couldn’t believe it to be honest with you,” says Billy Lyons, the ranch owner’s son. “We just stood there and kept an eye to make sure it wouldn’t hurt itself by jumping into one of the underground pipelines.”
Lyons got in touch with the nearby San Luis National Wildlife Refuge in Los Banos. The sea lion pup “was actively moving along the edge of a farm field road near the almond orchard,” Eric Hopson, the assistant refuge manager, tells the Bee. “The animal had already walked at least half-a-mile from the river and was obviously confused.”
Somebody called the pup, thought to be less than a year old, “Hoppie.”
It evidently didn’t take much effort for Hopson to persuade Hoppie to hop into a cage. “He was so tired he fell asleep right away and was doing some snoring,” Hopson says.
The Sausalito center is taking care of Hoppie, all 36 pounds of him. “He’s feeding well. He hasn’t yet gained weight, but that is totally normal and he will continue to gain weight as he continues to get accustomed to his new surroundings,” Laura Sherr, the center’s spokewoman, tells CBS San Francisco.
You can read more here.