Marine Mammal Care

Animal Care

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Caring for marine animals and their ocean home is at the heart of our mission and more than 10,000 patients have come through our doors since 1992.

Patients currently on-site

California Sea Lions: 18
Northern Elephant Seals: 2
Pacific Harbor Seals: 1

As of December 7, 2023

Veterinary and husbandry care

A daily medical record is maintained for each patient, including nutrition intake and notable changes in behavior. This information is important when assessing how animals are housed within the facility and when they are ready to move to the next step in the rehabilitation process. 

Initially our interaction with the seal or sea lion may be labor intensive, including physical restraint for feedings and medications. But, as the animal regains normal health and strength, the animal care team is hands-off and the animal interacts with people less and less. At no point are members of the general public allowed to interact with recovering seals and sea lions.

Providing a clean and stress-reduced environment is paramount! Our focus is always on keeping the animal as wild as possible in order to ensure its success upon release back into its natural habitat.

Husbandry refers to the care of animals. Husbandry staff, volunteers, and interns work hard every day to provide the best care to our seal and sea lion patients. We feed patients at least 3 times per day, maintain a clean living space, administer medications, prepare feeds, take daily progress notes, and monitor the quality of the pool water.


Our goal is for seals and sea lions to get healthy and be returned to the ocean as soon as possible. This takes place as soon as a patient recovers from its illness or injury, is at proper body weight, and can compete for food. Our attending veterinarian must clear each patient for release.

Criteria for release are established by National Marine Fisheries Service and include weight gain, resolution of medical conditions, ability to compete for food, blood parameters, and an overall assessment of the animal’s readiness to return to the ocean.

Criteria at the beach include an assessment of tide, weather and waves. While animals are expected to be able to navigate the ocean environment upon release, we take into consideration  that young animals may need a brief transition period when returning to the ocean.

Occasionally a seal or sea lion is unable to feed or protect itself due to blindness or other mobility issue. Thus, MMCC works with National Fisheries Service to find a permanent home for this type of dependent patient.

Post-Release Monitoring

Released seals and sea lions have been sighted as far away as San Diego to the south and Monterey, Marin and Humboldt counties to the north.  Prior to release, each patient receives a small orange tag in one of their flippers possessing a unique number. These tags may remain with the animal for years; reports of tagged animals provide information about survival and location. 

However, reading the tag number requires close proximity to the animal which is not recommended. To obtain more detailed post release information, satellite tracking is used. However our use of satellite tracking is limited because this technique is extremely expensive but when feasible, it provides critical information to our research team.

Our Patients