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An Idle Drifter Learns You Can't Fight City Hall

For the second time in eight months, a sea lion has been caught near Irvine's headquarters.

April 21, 2006|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

Irvine police say they are fairly certain that the 285-pound sea lion caught within 300 feet of City Hall early Thursday wasn't looking for the mayor.

"There was no petition that we are aware of," spokesman Lt. Jeff Love said, "and no legal papers were found."

They contacted volunteers from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, who caught the animal with nets, examined him for injuries, and drove him to a spot just south of San Clemente were they released him into the sea.

"We think he just got disoriented," Dean Gomersall, the center's animal care supervisor, said of the 7-year-old male that apparently swam about five miles from Upper Newport Bay up the San Diego Creek Channel to the Alton Parkway bridge, where he was found snoozing around 7 a.m.

Or perhaps, Gomersall suggested, "it's coming up on breeding season -- maybe he was just looking for companionship; who knows?"

Rescuers nicknamed the creature Chili Pepper after the song "Under the Bridge" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which happened to be playing on the radio when he was found.

"We took it as a sign," Gomersall said.

Chili Pepper is the second sea lion in eight months to have made the trip from Newport to Irvine's Civic Center. Last April, a female nicknamed Irvine turned up at almost the exact location and was released into the sea.

"It's the second sea lion this year that has tried to make it to City Hall," Mayor Beth Krom said, "but they've both been thwarted. It's interesting -- I guess they are finding Irvine a more pleasant place to hang out in than Newport Beach."

Thursday's adventure began the night before when officials said they got a call reporting the sea lion in the vicinity of Alton Parkway. A 2 1/2 -hour search, however, turned up nothing. The next morning, Love said, a bicyclist reported the animal.

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