Little Bug, a California sea lion, lay uncomfortable on the sand scratching constantly in an attempt to relieve the effects of the lice feeding off her body. She was just 21 pounds suffering from malnutrition and dehydration when a Good Samaritan called the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) to let them know she needed rescuing. Little Bug’s lice infestation was the worst PMMC has ever seen as thousands of lice were literally sucking the blood out of her body.
Upon rescue and placement at PMMC, Little Bug was treated with a medication to shock the lice and kill them off. She was then placed in a large sink and scrubbed with diluted ‘Dawn’ dish soap. PMMC staff tried to comb out the lice with a flea comb but there were so many the bath didn't offer much relief for the young sea lion. She was then isolated and placed in a bassinet so she could rest. By the next morning, thousands of lice had dropped off her and Little Bug was sleeping soundly, calmed and relaxed without needing to constantly scratch.
To help with Little Bug’s malnutrition, she was tube fed with blended fish shakes. After a week of tube feeding and fluids, Little Bug began to show interest in eating and the small patches of fur she had lost were growing back.
The Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) gave Little Bug a grant to help PMMC with the cost of rehabilitation. ISF Grant Team Member Veronica was invited to tour PMMC to see first-hand the treatment Little Bug was receiving. PMMC’s heated ICU floor helps malnourished patients, such as Little Bug, when they first arrive to the facility and need help regulating their body temperature. Once strong enough, patients like Little Bug are put into various pools with other sea lions of the same age where they can relearn to catch fish amongst competition. Along with rehabilitating sea lions, harbor seals and elephant seals, PMMC also provides a vast education program which teaches their community, including children, about the ocean and animals which live there.
When an animal at PMMC is ready to be released they always have a buddy. During rehabilitation, Little Bug became best friends with another sea lion by the name of Rell. In September of 2014, both Little Bug and Rell were ready to be released back to the ocean from Laguna Beach. Veronica was invited to represent ISF and asked to open Little Bug’s cage for his release. Once the cage was open, Little Bug decided to leave his cage and go into Rell’s for a visit. When both were ready, they ran out onto the beach healthy and happy to play amongst the waves and surf. There was a celebratory vibe as spectators watched Little Bug, now weighing 73 pounds, play in the surf with his friend Rell before swimming out to sea.