SAUSALITO, Calif. (KGO) -- It was a short trip for young Tchotchke from the Marine Mammal Center in Marin County to nearby Rodeo Beach for his release. The male California sea lion just finished three weeks of rehab for a kidney condition that left him sick and stranded at Stinson Beach.
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"He was suffering from leptospirosis," explained Dr. Shawn Johnson, a veterinarian with the Marine Mammal Center, which is a bacterial disease that causes kidney failure. Our team of experts was able to treat him with antibiotics and fluids and he recovered."
After some initial reluctance, Tchotchke bounded out of his steel enclosure and scampered toward the water. Volunteers used wooden shields to protect him from onlookers and vice-versa.
This release happens to coincide with two frightening incidents where swimmers were bitten by sea lions. And while it is not mating season, there are some other medical conditions that could prompt a sea lion to be more aggressive toward humans,
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"There are diseases that can affect their behavior," explained Dr. Johnson. "The most common one is domoic acid and that's a disease that we see and treat here regularly at the Marine Mammal Center. That can kind of sometimes change the judgment of animals."
It could also be that sometimes humans and sea lions just get in each other's way.
"It's just so touching," said tourist Sharon Sweitzer after stopping by Rodeo Beach to watch Tchotchke's flight to freedom. "I meant to video it, but I was like so excited that I didn't get a thing."
The Marine Mammal Center relies heavily on donations from the public and will be open through the holidays.
Click here for more information and ways to help.
Sea lion recovers after being found stranded at Stinson Beach
MARINE MAMMAL CENTER