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Sea Lions Washing Ashore From Disease

Jim Rice
Oregon State University

An outbreak of a bacterial disease has caused sick or dead sea lions to wash up on Oregon and California beaches.  KLCC’s Brian Bull reports.  

Researchers say the culprit is leptospirosis, a bacteria that can cause kidney failure, fever, and muscle pain.  Young male sea lions are usually affected and may exhibit dehydration and depression. 

Jim Rice is a researcher with Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute.  He says the disease can spread, so people are warned to keep their pets away should they encounter a sea lion on the beach.

Credit Jim Rice / Oregon State University
Oregon State University
A deceased seal found the morning of October 26, 2017.

“Leptospirosis can be spread through the urine of an infected animal," says Rice.  "So if a dog touches or somehow ingests the urine of that animal they can in turn become sick themselves. 

"And this should apply any time you’re on the beach, you generally don’t want your pets to be interacting with wildlife at all.  There’s always a risk of transmission between wildlife and domestic animals.” 

If your dog contacts a sickly or dead sea lion, Rice says to take your pet to a vet immediately.

So far, OSU has confirmed at least eight cases in the state since the outbreak started in late September.  Most of the affected seals were found on beaches in Lincoln, Tillamook, and Clatsop Counties.

Sick sea lions and other marine mammals can be reported to Oregon State Police at 800-452-7888.

Copyright 2017, KLCC. 

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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