San Francisco Chronicle
Wednesday November 24 2004
Jane Kay

The Oakland Fire Department captured a wayward elephant seal pup hanging out in a drainage culvert behind Network Associates Coliseum, 2 miles from the San Francisco Bay, and turned it over to wildlife experts for release today.

Called "Emmy,'' after one of the rescuing officers at the scene, the healthy 11-month-old seal surfaced at 78th Avenue and International Boulevard about midday Tuesday to the amazement of passers-by.

Cars double-parked along International for about a block and a half, clogging traffic, while a crowd gathered to see the 181-pound gray marine mammal, who was going the wrong way in one of the covered creeks that runs through Oakland.

Mark Hoffmann, fire chief of Battalion 3 who coordinated the capture, said it looked as though the seal was in danger from trash and humans.

"At this time of year, the culverts run with water from the hills to the bay," Hoffmann said. "We watched the seal, and it was trying to head upstream, ''

Hoffmann believes it entered the creek around the Oakland Airport.

Hoffman called the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, which was aware of the animal in the area, and was told to leave it alone. Because it was a pup, it wasn't abnormal for it to choose an odd location for the first molt. The seals tend to return to their rookery, or place of birth, for subsequent molts.

However, Hoffmann said, "My unit wasn't comfortable with leaving it alone. Not only was it causing a disturbance, but there was broken glass, car batteries and shopping carts. The seal was trying to negotiate through all that trash. Besides, some little kid might throw a rock at it.''

Within an hour, the Fire Department's heavy rescue unit had secured the seal in a sling and pulled it out with a crane. The Marine Mammal Center staff picked it up at the animal control agency.

By the afternoon, the seal was relaxing at the Sausalito center. Its green tag told volunteers it was born at the A�o Nuevo State Reserve, south of Pescadero, in January. The pups spend only a month with their mothers.

Shelbi Stoudt, at the center's stranding department, said the animal wouldn't receive any treatment and had been put in a pool with another elephant seal of the same age.

"It has an abrasion on its chin, which was probably done during the rescue operation," she said. "The animal is in extremely good condition and doesn't seem fazed by the capture at all.''

The seal will be released at Chimney Rock in the Point Reyes National Seashore today. "Hopefully, they're going to release it far from the East Bay, '' said Hoffmann.



Good job OFD!