Considering that most of the stories I have shared recently has ended on pretty tragic terms, I thought I’d try to share at least a more “hopeful” current story.
Although this animal’s condition is still very “guarded” and it’s not quite certain if she will manage to fully recover or not at this point.However, she has overcome several great hurdles already.
This would be the story of a female adult Northern Fur Seal going by the name Monahan.Sadly, she arrived at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito severely emaciated and suffering from symptoms of Domoic Acid Poisoning.
It would only be the second year now that we’ve started seeing adult Northern Fur Seals making it to shore and stranding with Domoic Acid Poisoning.It’s a very ominous sign.Northern Fur Seals are that of a pelagic species and don’t typically come too close to shore.And their food sources are usually further out to sea.
To see them coming in with Domoic Acid Poisoning and being emaciated tells two things.One is that we have over-fished so much that there’s not enough food for them.The second is that they are so desperate for food that they are traveling more inland and eating the &ldquooisoned fish” that’s carrying the Domoic Acid poisoning.
This poisoning is actually caused by a protozoa that resides within certain algal blooms.The algal blooms were considered a “naturally occurring” cycle at one point.But in recent years the algal blooms have become more and more “common/prevalent” and now there are different scientific communities arguing as to how “natural” these algal blooms are.It is believed that there are more of these toxic algal blooms due to agricultural “run-off” as well as global warming among a few other factors.
As for the over-fishing…well, very few communities wish or will admit to it being a real problem.As humans, we at least have “options” as to what we may consume.Unfortunately for the Marine Mammals, they are very limited as to what they may choose as a “food source”.They may be able to eat different “fish”.But no matter what, they still need fish to survive.
Sooo Northern Fur Seal Monahan came to shore.She stranded at Morro Strand State Beach in San Luis Obispo County off the California coast.She was transported all the way up north to the main hospital out at Fort Cronkhite in Sausalito, California.
When she first arrived she appeared to be on “death’s door”.She was non-responsive to any sight, sound or touch.And her breathing was labored.The first week, she was put on a regiment of Phenobarbital in an attempt to control any seizures.
Keep in mind that we don’t have a lot of information or knowledge as to how to successfully treat a Northern Fur Seal suffering from Domoic Acid Poisoning.It was just the previous year that we had started seeing Fur Seals affected with Domoic Acid Poisoning.
Northern Fur Seals are different from their brethren California Sea Lions.And at most, we found that the drugs aren’t as effective on fur seals as it has been on California Sea Lions.Of course, at this time we also don’t have the years of studies on Fur Seals to know the different affects the poisoning has on them compared to the California Sea Lion.
In any case, Monahan was treated with the Phenobarbital regiment being the only medicine we know of to help them and give them a chance.For that first week, she appeared to be in and out of it.One moment improving, the next moment not looking so good.
One of the Veterinarians attempted to palpate her abdomen to try and determine if she was pregnant but she was so distended at the time and more “up” at that moment that the doctor couldn’t make a solid determination.
To be on the “safe side” drugs were administered to attempt to prompt her to abort if she did happen to be pregnant (that was on a Friday).At that time parts of the placenta were expelled and the doctor at that time thought that she must have self aborted the pup before she was rescued and admitted to the Center.
As it turned out, that wasn’t the case.Sunday morning we came in to crew to find a very down Northern Fur Seal in agonizing pain with just the hint of little fetus flippers protruding out of her vagina.
We called Vet Staff once again.But once again, the powers that be made it near impossible for any medical staff to make it up.A Running event was taking place and parts of the road were closed not making it possible for them to get there.
At first we waited for a time to see if Monahan could push the fetus out on her own.But after some time she had made no progress.And it was beyond apparent that the fetus itself was already necrotic.
It was then that we made the choice to assist her in removing the necrotic fetus before too much time would elapse and it would kill her.
I gently held the front part of her while another crew member held her back flippers while a third crew member with the smallest hands pulled the necrotic fetus out.At that time while the fetus was still within her it was as though she had no strength at all.And she just kept groaning and crying.
Amazingly the moment the fetus popped out, Monahan suddenly sat upright and in the blink of an eye was active as if a huge weight had been removed from her.Just to see the life come to her followed by her sudden surge of energy just brought tears to all of us.
We quickly wrapped and covered the fetus within a towel and kept it out of Monahan’s view.And then put her on some subcutaneous fluid therapy.
The fetus had been passed breach.And upon taking a closer look, it was beyond clear and evident that the pup was deformed and would have had other congenital issues had it been carried to term.
Fortunately for Monahan, it appears we were able to remove the necrotic fetus before she herself went into toxic shock from having carried the dead pup in her for an unknown amount of time.It’s not clear if the pup aborted when the drugs had been administered or if it had already aborted before then and that she was just carrying it within her.
She’s now back to eating fish.She’s finished her regiment of Phenobarbital.And is now on a regiment of antibiotics in an attempt to try and protect her from any possible infection after the abortion.
Her condition is still “guarded” at this point but she has come very from how she first arrived.With any luck, she will continue to improve and hopefully we’ll be able to “fatten” her up and eventually be deemed releasable.At least that is the hope.
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