Lost sea lion pup found 100 miles inland at a California orchard

Michael Hanrahan/The Marine Mammal/AP

Michael Hanrahan/The Marine Mammal/AP

LOS ANGELES — Up a river without a paddle.

That’s the situation an adventurous California sea lion found himself in after swimming up the San Joaquin River, ending up at Mape’s Ranch in Modesto, California, about a 100-mile drive from the Pacific Ocean.

“The pup traveled a mile away from the river, and surprisingly was found in the middle of one of our new baby almond orchards,” said Billy Lyons, manager of the family-owned ranch. “I hope everything turns out OK.”

Luckily for the sea lion — nicknamed “Hoppie” — it looks like they will.

The pup is recovering back along the coast at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California. He was underweight and malnourished when he arrived there last month but is eating well and gaining strength.

After finding Hoppie, Lyons contacted the nearby San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge.

Assistant wildlife refuge manager Eric Hopson arrived on site and with the help of ranch hands helped coral the sea lion into a trap, said Jack Sparks with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photographs provided by Sparks show Hoppie in a crate. In one, he appears to be fast asleep, nuzzled up against white towels.

Hopson then contacted The Marine Mammal Center, which agreed to take the pup. He met a representative from the center in the parking lot of a strip mall to make the hand off, Sparks said.

Hoppie is not the first California sea lion to swim up the San Joaquin River channel, according to The Marine Mammal Center.

Another sea lion — nicknamed “Chippy” — made the same journey in 2004. He was found by police officers atop a cruiser.

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