Authorities have euthanized a brain-damaged sea lion that scientists believe swam through inland waterways all the way from the Channel Islands to a San Joaquin Valley dairy farm.
The sea lion was discovered in a cow shed at a dairy farm near Tracy last week. The owner named her Happy after the bovines of the California cheese campaign. Scientists believe Happy may have started its swim near the Channel Islands off the coast of Santa Barbara.
Happy was taken to the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, where officials said it was suffering from brain damage likely caused by toxic algae. The animal had a 15-minute seizure at the center and officials were forced to euthanize it Saturday, said Lauren DeMaio, a center spokeswoman.
Sea lions can die from a poisonous acid released by the toxic algae if they eat fish that has fed on the blooms, said Jim Oswald, a spokesman at the center. Scientists believe the algae blooms may be caused by agricultural runoff.
Researchers at the marine center will study the sea lion’s body, Oswald said.
“In death, we actually learn something,” he said.