Sea Lions Washing Ashore From Disease

Oct 26, 2017

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.  

A sick sea lion on the beach.
Credit Jim Rice / Oregon State University

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.

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

“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.