Wow, what a beautiful day!

Dear Gary:

I'm puzzled by rescuers of an injured sea lion (today's date is Jan. 13).

I live in Alameda and have been following the current news about a sea lion that has fishing line wrapped around its neck and mouth. His mouth is closed shut and as of today he has not been able to eat for two weeks.

The news says it has lost 100 pounds. They show footage of rescuers with huge nets at piers waiting for it to jump into them. After two weeks, can't they think of some other way to capture it? They really look like fools at this point.

Why can't they tranquilize it when it is on the pier, then capture it? I read all the time for various reasons rescuers can tranquilize bears, deer, other wild animals, etc. Why not a sea lion?

Jeannette Tregea,

Alameda

Dear Jeannette:

Trying to rescue sick or injured wild animals is one of the toughest jobs I can think of. Especially if the wild animal you are trying to rescue is an adult sea lion, an aggressive marine mammal that can weigh hundreds of pounds.

These powerful animals are lots bigger and stronger than humans and I can tell you from firsthand experience that they are potentially very dangerous. That's why the staff and volunteers at the Marine Mammal Center have to be careful to make sure that no one is injured or killed (man or beast) in the process of helping those creatures.

The Marine Mammal Center staff and volunteers are not fools. They are the best in the business when it comes to helping marine mammals in distress. They have years of experience and know you have to wait for the right moment and not rush things when you try to assist these huge creatures.

Using tranquilizers may work great for land mammals (not always!), but shooting a tranquilizer dart into a sea lion can result in the animal jumping into the water and drowning.

Most people "know" about the use of tranquilizers in rescuing wild animals by watching programs on TV. The program's star shoots a tranquilizer dart into an animal and the animal immediately yawns, stretches and lies down for a peaceful nap while a team of rescuers, veterinarians and cameramen rushes in to treat the animal's problems.

What they usually don't show you is that it can take 20-30 minutes (or more) for the tranquilizer to work, depending on the stress level of the animal. During this period the animal can run (or swim) long distances and maybe even escape from the humans. That means no one's around to help when the animal finally falls into a drugged sleep.

An air-breathing sea lion can swim off and drown after being shot with a tranquilizer dart. That's why they usually don't use them.

When I was working in wildlife rescue at Lindsay Wildlife Museum back in the 1970s, I used to hate it if TV cameramen appeared while we were trying to help an injured animal. I knew that whatever we did it wouldn't work out like any TV show. That's because it was real life.

Please cut them some slack. They really care and they're doing the best they can. They know better than anyone what happens if they can't rescue that animal.

Dear Gary:

Wednesday I was driving down Golf Club Road in front of Diablo Valley College. I stopped for a crow crossing the road in the crosswalk. It made me laugh as I watched him walk all the way across the street!

Jackie Veats,

Pleasant Hill

Dear Jackie:

Think of the feeling of power that little crow must have felt by being able to control all those big cars simply by pushing that little button and making the traffic lights change.