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Sick sea lions found stranded on the Oregon coast

Sunyong Park

An increase in stranded sea lions along the Oregon coast may inspire curious beach-goers to investigate. But the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is warning people, especially those accompanied by animals, to stay away from the marine mammals.

The cause of the stranded sea lions is leptospirosis, a naturally occurring bacteria that poses a moderate risk to humans and a significant risk to pets such as dogs and horses.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Michael Milstein says the current outbreak was first reported in July.

“It shows up in the sea lion population every few years,” said Milstein. “Particularly when the population is large and robust, as it is now.”

Sea lions diagnosed with leptospirosis are treated with antibiotics, fluids, and other supportive care. Even after treatment, roughly two-thirds of the animals it affects do not survive.

People who come across stranded sea lions are encouraged to contact either the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife or the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 866-767-6114.

Jasmine Lewin was a freelance reporter in 2022 and 2023. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Lewin wrote for the University of Oregon quarterly magazine Ethos before graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.
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