A wayward sea lion who found her way into a cow barn in rural Tracy was euthanized this weekend because of chronic toxic algae poisoning, an official at the Marine Mammal Rescue Center said Tuesday.

Jim Oswald, spokesman for the center, said the young female sea lion suffered a "major seizure" — it lasted nearly 15 minutes — shortly after arriving at the center Jan. 22.

"Sea lions can go wherever there is a water source they can get into," Oswald said. "We've

had rescues in the Delta before, but this was unusual because it ended up on a diary farm. Another example on how the disease was effect(ing) the animal."

The 200-pound sea lion — estimated to be a young adult — waddled three-quarters of a mile from Paradise Cut before making herself comfortable inside a cow barn on the Kisst Dairy, on Cedar Road in the rural community of Banta.

John Kisst, who has owned the dairy since 1992, said the

wayward sea lion was discovered around 7:30 a.m. Jan. 22 during a weekly veterinarian check of the cows in the barn.

The sea lion apparently swam up Paradise Cut which connects to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Bay via Old River and the Grant Line Canal. She climbed over the levee, crawled across Kisst's property, through the corral and into the barn where she found a bed made of dried cow manure and dirt.


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He dubbed the mammal "Happy."

"It was just resting there," Kisst said at the time. "We went up and it stood up, started squawking at us and was just happy and content. It found happy California cows and became a happy California seal."

Kisst was unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Oswald said fish — like anchovies and herrings — eat harmful algae blooms in the ocean before they are eaten by

predators, like sea lions, and pass along toxins.

He said the disease starts eating away at the animal's brain, leading to seizures. Infected animals turn up in strange places, like railroad

tracks, highways and dairy farms.

"Although we think 'Happy' was more of a chronic case, there are some indications she had seizures in the past," Oswald said. "She would have had them in the future and could have had one in the water and drowned."

Mike Martinez can be reached at (209) 832-3947 or at mmartinez@angnewspapers.com.