The seal lion scooted its way up from the sandy beach onto a city street -- a distance of at least a quarter mile -- before crawling under a car and refusing to budge Wednesday.
An eyewitness saw the sea lion and called police to lend a hand. When the police car arrived, the runaway pup crawled under that.
All in all, the sea lion spent four hours hiding under the cars before SeaWorld senior animal care specialist Kevin Robinson was called to rescue the animal.
Robinson is the man the city calls when sea lions and other marine animals get into strange situations on land. Although he and his fellow animal specialists have rescued many seals and sea lions before -- 101 this year alone -- this case was "slightly unusual" for him.
"Usually, we rescue the seals from backyards and public restrooms or they swim up the San Diego River," Robinson said.
In March 2009, one sea lion pup managed to cross a field, a shopping center and four lanes of traffic before rescuers caught him in the parking lot of a Chevys Fresh Mex restaurant.
It might seem that a sea lion would be able to find his way back to the ocean by simply turning around, but Robinson says most of the animals that get lost in civilization are pups who haven't figured out the ways of the world.
"They are usually malnourished, dehydrated or have parasites," he said.
Robinson said his rescue strategy was fairly straightforward.
"Scooping them up in a net is the best option because they can bite," he said. "If that's not an option, we do have gloves for safety and protection. If you approach them towards the face, they will either back up or bite.
"I had a fellow staff member go on the other side of the car and slide a net toward him, then when the pup was distracted, I grabbed him with my hands."
Robinson and his assistant took the pup to SeaWorld, where he is being nursed back to health in hopes of being released back in the wild in a month or so.
"The pup was all skin and bones," Robinson said, adding that he weighed about 25 pounds, compared to the 60 pounds a sea lion pup of that age normally weighs.
"The majority of the animals we rescue are harbor seals, elephant seals and sea lions who have been weaned from Mom," he said. "They are supposed to have fat reserves that will keep them healthy long enough to find fish. Most of them learn to do this before they burn off the reserves."
Robinson said that sea lions only get water from the fish they eat, so before lost pups can be introduced back into the wild, they must be re-hydrated.
"We give them lots of fluid the first couple of days before working up to concentrated calories -- most of which is done by tube feeding," he said. "Some get to eat fish, and once they do that, we start building up their reserves before introducing them back into the wild."
Robinson said the chances of the lost sea lion getting back to normal look pretty good, and that makes him feel good.
"We're proud to do our responsibility of protecting the marine life here in San Diego," Robinson said. "Plus, we learn a lot about them as we treat them."