Since its start in 1975, the nonprofit Marine Mammal Center, located just north of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Marin Headlands, has rescued, rehabilitated and released thousands of sick and injured marine mammals along 600 miles of California coastline.
Most of the patients at the center’s on-site animal hospital arrive when concerned people call the center’s 24-hour hotline at (415) 289-SEAL to report an animal in distress. Staff and volunteers retrieve the animals, and bring them back to the hospital, where the goal is always to get the animals back on their feet/fins/flippers and released back into the wild.
Visiting the center is free, but I highly recommend taking a docent-led tour, which is what El Hub and I did. Tour tickets are $9 each for adults, $5 for seniors (ages 65 and up) and students (ages 5 to 17), and free for kids under 4. The proceeds from the tours go toward running the center, which is primarily staffed by volunteers.
During the tour, which is about an hour long, you learn about the animals the center sees, the most common injuries and illnesses, and get to see a large part of the huge facility, including the animal hospital itself, the kitchen area where they prepare patient meals, classrooms (they also teach classes for kids and adults) and the enclosures where patients are housed.
Then, on the second and fourth Sundays of every month, the center hosts something called Marine Science Sunday, which is a free hour-long interactive class on a different theme every time, like yesterday’s was on Marine Mammals of the Arctic.
Very interesting. I learned about the narwhal, also known as the unicorn of the sea, an animal I’d never even heard of before.
Marine Science Sundays aren’t just for adults, either. There were a lot of kids there, and they all seemed to be having a blast.
Oh, and if you happen to visit on a sunny day, Rodeo Beach is right down the road (2 minutes away). I wish I’d packed a lunch for me and El Hub to enjoy by the water. Next time…
I plan to go back in April, which is when the Center’s hospital is usually filled with spring pups who’ve been separated from their mothers. They check them out, and get them up to their proper weight before sending them out in the world.
Want to visit The Marine Mammal Center? You can learn more at marinemammalcenter.org.