OAKLAND — An emaciated-looking California sea lion that wandered to the edge of an Oakland International Airport runway was sent to a marine animal hospital Tuesday.
Marine Mammal Center workers recovered the animal by 1:30 p.m., after airport workers had noticed it a few hours earlier.
"Our rescue workers waded through the water and found the animal acting pretty lethargic until they netted it," Marine Mammal Center spokeswoman Mieke Eerkens said. "It doesn't appear to have any other major injuries, but we'll check it out when it arrives in our Sausalito hospital."
The sea lion was in a marsh area off the approach end of Runway 11, toward the Alameda side of the airport, Oakland International spokesman Robert Bernardo said. They didn't know how long it had been there. Officials did not report any disruption to airport activity or use of the runway.
Rescue workers guessed the animal, a male, to be 6 feet long and 175 pounds, likely a sub-adult but older than a pup, Eerkens said.
"If we can patch it up — we don't know what's wrong with the animal — but if we're able to treat it, we will, and hopefully that's the case," Eerkens said. "If it recovered, we'd release it back to the wild."
The center has release sites that maximize chances of reintegrating marine animals into the wild, remote areas that minimize interaction with humans.
"This happens from time to time," Eerkens said. "California sea lions are every curious animals. They'll follow paths and explore, and also follow food sources, go up little estuaries and end up places that aren't ideal. Like the airport. Lots of animals do that sort of thing, but sea lions especially. They're very agile."
U.S. Department of Agriculture officials were also on the scene, providing escort for the rescue workers and making sure they stayed out of dangerous areas where the workers could be imperiled by moving aircraft, USDA wildlife biologist Dennis Orthmeyer said.