Any outdoor enthusiast living in Santa Barbara is bound to gravitate to the beaches the city boasts, since diving into the wealth of activities our shores offer presents an irresistible allure. From swimming and sailing, to wind-surfing and surfing, sometimes the most rewarding experience can be found strolling down the strand that cradles the briny blue. I was on such a stroll this past Monday, heading in a northerly direction along Hendry’s beach, when I came upon a cluster of community members who had paused mid-ped to care for another kind of ped. A pinniped, to be precise, and for the layperson out there that means: sea lion–in this instance beached, and in significant distress.
Sporting gashes on the left side of his neck, upper torso, and flipper—that latter the “feather-foot” to which the term pinniped refers—the mammal’s limpid brown eyes showed his exhaustion, while the simple act of beaching himself showed he was near the end of the line. Thank goodness for the sea lion there was a landline to be called for such situations, and citizens concerned enough to break routine and find it. Through a circuitous route of calls placed to government offices, a young lady by the name of Brooke was able to track down the number to the agency best suited to respond to emergencies of this nature. Indeed, the only resource that could help, as disturbing beached sea life is a federal offense unless licensed to do so.
Though the recently changed number was hard to come by, once contacted, the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute was quick to respond. Long established as Ventura County’s go-to for the rescue and rehabilitation of stranded marine mammals, the Institute took over this role in Santa Barbara County from the Santa Barbara Marine Mammal Center as recently as the end of June, but that didn’t stop them from jumping into action. Within an hour of receiving the call, trained professionals were on the scene, including CIMWI’s Chief Marine Mammal Veterinarian himself, founder and executive director: Sam Dover. Equipped with gear and know-how particular to the distressed animal, the compassion the CIMWI staff exhibited was equal to that of those who had lingered to ascertain the mammal’s ultimate well-being.
And not just lingered. I myself ran to and from the Ranger’s station in search of help, while another lady approached coastal residences in an effort to find the correct number to call, while passersby were quick to leash their dogs when informed of the mammal’s plight. Brooke was the gal that spearheaded the connection between sea lion and sea help, spending close to four hours at the animal’s side until aid arrived.
During this time, person after person stopped to express concern, and the outpouring of community caring was palpable in all ways, the most significant of which being Brooke’s persistence, and the availability of trained marine biologists and medical staff to take over when able. It bears emphasis that all the professionals working in this capacity are volunteers, and that the Institute itself is a non-profit organization reliant on charitable contributions to manage its considerable overhead of medicines, equipment, food, and facility. Its very existence proves that we here in Santa Barbara value the quality of life for all inhabitants, marine or marooned, and are more than willing to provide resources that enable this vital Institute’s continued ability to function.
I’ll end this SO with the phone number for CIMWI, (the institute’s abbreviated name) hoping all locals will enter it into their Smart Phones to be that much the wiser on their next beach-side visit should such a situation present itself. I’m including their web address, too, noting Paypal or credit card donations can be made directly from their gorgeous website that showcases what it is they do—and the beautiful sea life they care for—in more depth.
Rescue Hotline: (805) 567-1505
Non-emergency: (805) 567-1506