A little sea lion pup named Hoppie is only 10 months old but oh the adventures he’s had since being separated from his mother.
“He was out in the world trying to find his way and trying to figure out where and how to catch fish and somehow he ended up going the wrong way,” said Shawn Johnson, a veterinarian with the Marine Mammal Center near San Francisco.
Did he ever.
It’s believed that Hoppie’s odyssey began in Southern California off the Channel Islands. He migrated north, then under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay and down the San Joaquin River 100 miles inland. He then hopped out of the water, waddled over a mile before being found in an almond orchard at the end of last month.
“He was near death when we found him,” Johnson said. “His main problem was his malnutrition. He was really skinny and we could see his ribs and because he had probably been in the fresh water and running around in the dirt for a while, his hair coat was missing some of his hair.
But after two weeks, he’s come a long way.
Hoppie is now recovering with nearly 200 other sea lions and seals. Most were found beached, underweight and starving, then brought to the Marine Mammal Center, where they’re nursed by volunteers like Giancarlo Rulli, before being returned to their native habitat.
“That’s where they belong,” Rulli said. “We’re a rehabilitation hospital. We’re not a zoo. We really would like to see them successful, eating fish, out back where they belong and that’s the ocean.”
Doctors say Hoppie could soon be making his journey home.
“He’s looking great compared to when he first came in,” Johnson said. “Hopefully he can find his way this time.”