Sea lion that wandered across runway now recovering

The Associated Press
Saturday June 22, 2002

SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO — A sick sea lion was recuperating Friday after it wandered across the runway at San Francisco International Airport, prompting airport officials to consider fencing off miles of the bay front. 

The airport’s runways jut out into the San Francisco Bay. 

Because the sea lion was discovered at about 4 a.m., it did not interfere with passenger flights, airport spokesman Mike McCarron said. But the disoriented animal did startle airport workers Tuesday after it moved more than a mile into the airport and ended up in the American Airlines cargo area, according to Jennifer Witherspoon of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, which rescued the animal. 

The six-foot-long sea lion appears to have been poisoned by domoic acid, a naturally occurring toxin produced by algae, Witherspoon said. The toxin can affect the brains of mammals. Blood work will determine the exact cause of its illness. 

The center usually keeps sick animals about a month. 

“We need to make sure he is recuperating,” Witherspoon said. “We’re hopeful.” 

Airport officials said they are considering fencing off the bay front for security reasons as well as to prevent wayward sea life from stumbling onto the runway.