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Sea Lions Sick with Leptospirosis on Oregon Coast: Keep Pets, Yourselves Away

Published 09/22/23 at 6:37 p.m.
B
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Sea Lions Sick with Leptospirosis on Oregon Coast: Keep Pets, Yourselves Away

(Oregon Coast) – Oregon coast officials are worried about a run of leptospirosis on the Oregon coast, a disease affecting California sea lions that can be spread to humans, horses, and especially dogs. (Above: sick sea lion on the south Oregon coast, courtesy ODFW)

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Every year there's a run of California sea lions that come northward, following food sources. The disease can be deadly to dogs, who are often uncontrollably curious about such finds on the beaches.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) just put out the warning this week, saying to especially keep your pets away from these animals.

“Leptospirosis is a naturally occurring bacteria that can sicken sea lions, dogs, people, other wildlife, and livestock,” ODFW said. “The disease can spread when an animal or person is in contact with urine or other bodily fluids of an infected or dead sea lion.”

What are the signs of leptospirosis in dogs? According to Washington Department of Health:

“The clinical signs of leptospirosis vary. Common clinical signs reported in dogs include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, refusal to eat, severe weakness and depression, stiffness, or severe muscle pain.”

Leptospirosis is a naturally occurring bacteria that can sicken sea lions, dogs, people, other wildlife, and livestock. The disease can spread when an animal or person is in contact with urine or other bodily fluids of an infected or dead sea lion.

ODFW said to keep your dogs on a leash while at the Oregon coast and keep them and horses at least 150 feet away from live or dead sea lions. There are also vaccinations for leptospirosis: ODFW said you should discuss ths possibility for both your dog and horse.

Oregon's seal and steller sea lion population remains unaffected.


California sea lion resting at Seaside, courtesy Seaside Aquarium

The Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network is receiving several reports daily of sick or dead sea lions, particularly on the central and northern coast. Many of the sick animals reported are malnourished and very lethargic which is consistent with leptospirosis symptoms. One sea lion was necropsied and tested positive for the disease.

An outbreak of leptospirosis happened in 2022, which occurs sporadically in marine mammals. They regularly result in an increase in strandings and deaths among sea lions.

“While it is too early to know if this will evolve into an outbreak, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon State Parks, and the Marine Mammal Stranding Network will monitor the situation,” ODFW said. “Overall, the California sea lion population is healthy and increasing.”

Sick or injured seals, sea lions, whales or dolphins can be reported to the Oregon State Police (OSP) TIP line at 1-800-452-7888.

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Courtesy Seaside Aquarium. Below: sick California sea lion, courtesy Seaside Aquarium



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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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