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Gilligan’ the sea lion pops up by Lathrop freeways
CHP sea lion
sea lion

“Gilligan” may have been stranded, but it looks like he’s now on his way home.

That’s the name that the multi-jurisdictional team gave to the sea lion that was discovered on Sunday along the busy freeway intersection of I-5 and I-205 just south of Lathrop – an animal that experts believe made its way onto dry land from the San Joaquin River.

Through a joint effort between the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office Animal Control Unit, the California Highway Patrol, and the Sausalito-based Marine Mammal Center, the adolescent male sea lion was able to be safely secured and placed in a crate where he was transported to the Bay Area for observation and potential release back into its natural habitat.

While it is unknown how the animal got to where it was discovered, a number of stories of wildlife reclaiming land and territory from across the county and the world have been grabbing plenty of attention.

Reports of sea lions near populated areas began popping up last week in Stockton near Spanos Park where somebody claimed to have observed a sea lion in a slough near Spanos Park West. White Slough, which runs behind the massive housing development, connects to the San Joaquin River and ultimately flows out to the San Francisco Bay.

According to the Marine Mammal Center, the large water-based mammals are not all that uncommon in the months of May and June when they leave the safe confines of the San Francisco Bay and begin working up the rivers that feed it in search of food. Sea Lions are also spotted in the Sacramento and American Rivers around this time of year when the creatures make their way north after splitting off from the many fingers of the Delta.

According to experts, the implementation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the 1970’s has helped lead to an explosion of the animals in the subsequent decades,. Discoveries inland are typically a sign of a healthy population of the popular animals – which draw millions of people every year to see them at San Francisco’s Pier 39, and have even spawned a 24-hour camera to allow interested parties from around the world to watch the animals from the comfort of their own home.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.