COMING TO THE RESCUE
Recruiter's wife volunteer at Northcoast Marine Mammal Center

Lauri Reilly's lifelong love for all wildlife and the outdoors has helped her flourish at a marine mammal rescue center, thanks to her Army recruiter husband's latest assignment on the northern California coast in Crescent City.

Lauri Reilly, who hails from Hoquiam, Wash., grew up combing for shells, clam digging and studying tidal pools. When her husband, 12-year veteran Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Reilly landed duty at the Crescent City Recruiting Station, it seemed natural to volunteer at the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center (NMMC).

Lauri Reilly does not have formal schooling in treating marine mammals, but the senior volunteers at NMMC give extensive hands on training in the basic feeding and care of the animals, the center rescues. She is also working towards a certification for oil spill cleanup. On an average, NMMC rescues between 30 and 60 stranded mammals annually. The most common "patients" at the center have been California sea lions, which have accounted for 39 percent of all rescues from 1988-2009, according to the NMMC website.

Volunteers such as Lauri Reilly have different duties depending on the shift. The morning shift is responsible for cleaning all enclosures and pools as well as administering the supplements to the animals. During every shift, she and the others are responsible for evaluating all the "patients" to make sure they are doing okay. "We take care to disinfect ourselves between pens to ensure nothing is transferred from animal to animal," said Lauri Reilly. "This can be very important if we have an animal that is sick, most of all carrying parasites." She has been part of a few releases and says the best part of her work is watching an animal released to their natural home.

Most of the rescued Pacific Harbor pups are only a few days old and need to be tube fed. "This requires patience, gentleness, and attention-to-detail," said Lauri Reilly. "If the tube isn't placed correctly, the fluid can fill a lung instead of the stomach and can be fatal to the pup." The center feeds the pups a formula made of powdered milk, water and salmon oil. Primarily the mother abandons the rescued babies, and that is largely because of human interference. The mothers will leave the babies on the shore while they fish -- sometimes up to 24 hours at a time -- and if there are people around, the mothers will not return to the shore for the baby.

The center also helps whales who find themselves entangled and occasionally rescue Dall's porpoises, Harbor porpoises, and sea turtles. "We have found the animals on the beaches with ATV vehicles riding circles around them," said Lauri Reilly. "Human activity or interaction can cause abandonment as the mother seals have no way of defending themselves.

Hoping to volunteer for a bird and wildlife rescue center in the future, Lauri Reilly says it is important to her to help assist animals that are often in danger because of humans. "My heart aches for the negative impact we have in all areas of the world," said Lauri Reilly. "This is my way of giving back."

"Seeing Lauri help rehabilitate those seals puts a smile on her face that would make any husband proud," said Aaron Reilly, the Center Commander for his recruiting station. "I could not be happier." The Reillys have two children, 41/2-year-old Cole and 2-year-old Piper.