Nine-year-old Mason Martuscelli walked down to Twin Lakes State Beach in Santa Cruz one sunny July day with his mother, sister and grandma. He helped his mom lay out the beach blanket and sat down to begin building a sand castle.
Then the stench came. “It was smelly,” said Mason.
After searching for the source of the smell, his mother, Lynn, discovered a dead sea lion a few feet from their blanket.
“We had to move our blanket because it was so stinky,” she said. The dead sea lion was the third Lynn and her family have seen this season. Her 7-year-old daughter, Jennifer, had not seen a dead one before this summer.
The Martuscelli’s are just a few of the many residents to notice the increase in dead wildlife on the shores of California beaches. Chris Spohrer
, an ecologist with California State Parks said the number of complaints from residents is up.
“People on the beach talk to lifeguards,” he said. Although he did not know an exact number of complaints, he did say lifeguards are noticing more complaints and notifications of dead and smelly sea creatures than usual.
Residents aren't complaining for nothing. The Marine Mammal Center
in Moss Landing has rescued almost triple the number
of sea lions this summer. In the month of June alone, the center responded to 400 notifications of stranded sea lions and at one point averaged 20 rescues a day.
Officials are taking action, burying six sea lions eight feet under the sand this week at Brighton State Beach.
Scientists are still trying to figure out why so many sea lions are coming ashore. Sphorer has noticed an increase in 1-year-old sea lions washing ashore injured or malnourished.
“It's sad,” said Martuscelli. “You used to never see dead sea lions at the beach.”
Not all of the stories of sick sea lions have a sad ending. Over the weekend, experts with the Marine Mammal Center
released six rehabilitated sea lions back into the San Francisco Bay
, along with other sea birds and creatures that they have nursed back to health.