A budding biologist’s big day involves sea lion beached on Ediz Hook

PORT ANGELES – Lili Muth has something cool for show and tell when her Marine Ecology 270 class meets on Thursday.

Muth, a student in Peninsula College’s Fisheries Technician Program, came upon a California sea lion that had flopped onto Marine Drive on Ediz Hook looking for some warm blacktop on Tuesday afternoon.

“No way. I could not be so blessed to see one,” Muth said – a number of times.

Muth first called her mother, then called for help.

The Port Angeles Police Department placed cones around the animal to prevent vehicles from hitting it.

The State Patrol called the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which called the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Our office is right there at the Coast Guard base,” said John Haupt, a law enforcement officer with the federal agency.

“I called our biologist in Seattle, and he just instructed us what to do.”

Haupt and Muth used their cars and a fabric seat cover to coax the animal off the road and onto the beach.

Sea lions beach themselves in the spring when they molt, or lose their fur, according to the Web site of the Sea World Busch Gardens research center in San Diego, Calif., which is at http://www.swbg-animals.org

During the molting process, the warm-blooded mammals cannot handle cold ocean water, according to the center.

Muth and her friend Rhonda Coker were taking their daily walk along Ediz Hook when they saw something large and black on the roadway.

It looked like a large piece of black plastic, Coker said.

Muth didn’t think so, and ran up to it.

The animal was laying on the road, not moving much.

Occasionally it would raise its head and scratch its back.

Muth stayed with the animal into the evening, watching its behavior and making sure it was left alone.

“I laid its head down on the curb like it was a pillow,” Muth said.

After three hours on the exposed spit, Muth was cold and ready to leave.

Coker came in her car at about 6:30 p.m., and the friends prepared to leave.

The animal sat up and flopped off the beach into the water.

“It was weird, like she was waiting for me to go,” Muth said.

“I was crying when she left.”

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