Credit: John Baran Photo

A seal lion mother and the newborn pup she birthed at Santa Barbara Harbor’s launch ramp early Monday morning were safely relocated to a secluded habitat on Friday, away from the visitors who had swarmed the area to take a look.

“It is a really big deal to be able to view wildlife that close up,” said Ruth Dover, director of the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute. “Everybody loves seeing a baby,” she said, laughing as she admitted that she went by the site to drop something off and found herself still there three hours later watching the mother and baby. Dover added that the mother was likely headed to the seal rookeries at the islands offshore, but just couldn’t make the last 25 miles or so.

To ensure the two could bond and nurse in relative peace, the city’s Waterfront Department and Harbor Patrol put a barrier around the launch ramp. Visitors were asked to keep their voices down because if the sea lion became distressed, she might take to the water and possibly abandon the pup, Dover said. Volunteers kept watch during the day and into the night, and the high winds in recent days kept boat activity quieter than normal.

With the weekend approaching, Dover and her staff were eager to get the pair situated somewhere quieter and were relieved to see the baby gaining strength. Their veterinarians sedated and netted the 180-pound mother to keep her from taking off, and then used gloves to handle the pup and place it in a crate. Both were moved to their new location by truck, where the Wildlife Institute will continue to monitor the pair.

They’re working on a short video about the two sea lions, which will appear at the nonprofit’s YouTube channel, Dover said, and monitoring information will appear at their Facebook and Instagram pages as the pup learns to swim and the two return to the ocean.

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