Sausalito breathed a sigh of relief last week when a wayward seal was safely captured on the grounds of a local school.
But then came the bad news. Toxic algae has damaged the animal's brain to the point that she'll need to be euthanized. Animal experts have determined that she's unable to survive much longer.
It's unclear where the poisons came from, but humans are a likely inadvertent culprit. The toxic algae can be fed by chemicals deposited by humans. Algae is often ingested by fish, which are in turn caught and eaten by sea lions. A recent report indicated that much of the pollution in the San Francisco Bay can be attributed to suburban pesticide usage. That's a turnaround from previous theories that industrial agriculture was responsible for bay pollution.
Sea lions aren't the only marine mammal threatened by toxic runoff. Earlier this year, officials noted a worrisome decline in the sea otter population. As early indicators of environmental damage, the drop in otters' numbers could foreshadow similar problems for humans.
The Sausalito sea lion, named Na'au, was known to have some brain damage from past exposure to toxins. Although she initially showed signs of good heath, the navigation center of her brain was deemed to be damaged beyond hope.