Sea Lions Back at the S.F. Zoo

I have to give thanks to two of my friends Beth Wise and Lincoln Shaw who work at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito. I follow their posts to facebook about the work they do and when I heard about a sea lion they called Silent Knight I was happy. Not so much for the sea lion as it had been shot in the face with a shotgun and was now blind, but I was happy that they got to care for him and bring him back around.

Sea lions tend to not be bothered by people so they tend to act rather friendly towards us. Then some idiot has to pull out a shot gun and shoot at them to get them to move away from them. While that sounds like a good idea in some parts of San Francisco, it’s not a good idea when it comes to marine mammals.

I’ve had a love of seals, sea lions and all other marine mammals from a young age. I remember taking a class at the now defunct Junior Academy at the California Academy of Sciences and we had a field trip down to Año Nuevo Beach where the elephant seals come to breed. I remember jumping over a log with the rest of the people in the class only to turn around after and realize it wasn’t a log, but an elephant seal. These are pretty impressive and intelligent creatures and many of them moved from Seal Rock out near me to Pier 39 now where they put on a show for the onlookers and manage to stink up the place a bit due to their diet of oily fish which makes their poop smell a bit on the unbearable side.

Sea lions have always been the Marx Brothers of the pinniped world used in movies because of their humorous antics that mimicked human behavior if people had finds instead of hands and feet. They can adapt to living in these confined conditions, but they aren’t their happiest when they have to. This is part of the reason I’m glad that Silent Knight has been moved to the San Francisco Zoo. While he’s recovered from the shotgun blast, he’s still blind and can’t be released into the wild like the Marine Mammal Center normally does. The San Francisco Zoo stepped in and offered to care for him so he can live out his years with support and care from people who know how to take care of animals.

The Marine Mammal Center volunteers have a job that isn’t the best and they don’t get paid. Imagine going to work and having to blend up lots of oily smelly fish that you then have to more or less force feed to a sick not very willing animal. You probably don’t come home smelling very good and on top of it there’s no pay, no benefits other than knowing in your heart that you’ve helped an injured animal.

So cheers to Beth and Lincoln and all the other hard working people at the MMC. Maybe I need to get all the other members of my old band together and take up a collection to donation to one of their residents named Black Wolf [my band was named Black Wülf, note the umlat and U to make it look even more metal.]


Urban Wildlife: It’s More Than Rats and Roaches

A lot of people don’t realize that just because we live in a city that there isn’t some real wildlife you can find here. Sure, we’ve got raccoons and skunks and the occasional possum or opossum where the “O” is silent, but we also have a few other beasts that make our way into San Francisco.

Well, there are feral cats, tons of them. No matter where you go you well see stray cats running around, but we also have some nice pristine areas that urban dwellers haven’t taken over that have become home to some even more wildlife. In the East Bay a few years ago there was a jogger who was attacked by a mountain lion. San Francisco, luckily free of mountain lions does have its share of coyotes now. You usually see them in the Richmond district making their way through the park to Sunset Boulevard in the Sunset district. The biologists in the know say they are coming from Marin and are actually crossing the Golden Gate Bridge at night to venture into better feeding grounds in the Presidio.

I read a story yesterday though that shows that apparently our coyote population isn’t just made up of immigrants from Marin. There are several coyotes living in Glen Park Canyon and people who have been watching them have noticed that one of the cubs, term used loosely because he/she is a couple of years old, has moved on to greener pastures. I used to live near the canyon and if I was a wild animal living in an urban area I’m not sure where I would go. They could go up the hill from Glen Park, but that would be navigating along asphalt walkways until you get to the top and hit the mini-mall like shopping area and juvenile hall. Not sure how long a coyote would last in juvenile hall, but I wouldn’t want to test the theory.

If the coyote went east you’d be smack in the middle of the Mission District 94112, again, not a nice place to be a wild animal with the 14 Mission buses to avoid along with all the people cruising down Mission street. The Norteño/Sureño gang’s aren’t as big there anymore so you wouldn’t have to worry about being shot, but Jeez, it’s kind of tough to be a wild animal in an urban setting when the people are more wild than you are.

I will give you a word of advice though. If you do run into a coyote in San Francisco keep in mind that they aren’t dogs. They’re a little more confusing than the foxes that you rarely see anymore except by the beach, but coyotes can be easily mistaken for dogs so don’t walk up and put your hand out for it to sniff or you might be making a quick trip to the hospital to have your hand put back together. While they don’t bite with as much force as a wolf or a pit bull their faces are built to tear flesh and as someone who once went through the wind shield of Caddy from the outside in, having your flesh torn from your body is not a fun thing to have happen.

I had one walk by my car when I was driving through the Presidio and I stopped thinking it might be a lost dog. Luckily I realized when it was a couple feet from my window that it wasn’t a dog. We stopped and looked at it safely from inside the car until it got bored with us and started to walk away. Coyotes are seen by the Native Americans as tricksters and I wanted him to leave first. If I decided to drive he might have done something stupid like jump in front of my car since they’re fast and having to explain to my friends in SF that I hit a coyote with my car in San Francisco is just something that might be a little difficult for some people to understand.

Coyotes, they’re here and they’re not going away. Just keep that in mind.

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