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Environment | Science

Sharp Increase In Sea Lion Deaths On The Oregon Coast

People up and down the Oregon coast have been reporting multiple ailing and dying sea lions on beaches. Scientists have traced the deaths to a bacterial disease.

Jim Rice is an Oregon State University scientist at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.  He says there’s typically an increase in sea lion mortality in the fall, but this year there are even more.

Necropsies  have found the cause to be leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that affects the kidneys. Rice says if you find a sea lion on the beach, let it be.

Jim Rice: “In most cases, there isn’t really much we can do to help these animals other than give it lots of space and perhaps the animal can recover on its own if it’s given that opportunity. Pouring water on the animals or encouraging it to get back into the water. That certainly will not help them.”

Rice says people and dogs can get leptospirosis through contact with the ill mammals or by touching sand nearby. He says the dying sea lions are a concern because the health of marine mammals can indicate the quality of ocean conditions.

Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute

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