Featured Image Credit: Wendy Szaniszlo
Earlier this month, an adult female steller sea lion was found and reported as entangled on Cleland Island, off the coast of Tofino.
The head veterinarian of Vancouver Aquarium, Dr Martin Haulena was on the scene with a small team to assess the sea lion’s injuries and while it wasn’t looking good — with similar unresolved situations ending in death as the mammal grows larger — this story does have a happy ending!
They had to start by tranquilizing her from a distance, due to her being among a colony of other sea lions.
After the area was clear and she was sedated, they moved up close, removing the packing strap and applying antibiotics to the wound. Once the sea lion was tagged, their job was done!
After they were finished, they reversed the tranquilizer and moved to give the sea lion her space, watching over her as she slowly woke and then swam away.
They worked quickly due to the crashing waves, and a go-pro device worn by Dr. Haulena offered an inside look into the entirety of the undertaking.
Dr. Haulena is the only professionally trained veterinarian in Canada who is capable of successfully disentangling sea lions from marine debris— and it’s certainly necessary. Both California and Steller sea lions are at high risk of entanglement with nets and ropes, and discarded trash plaguing the west coast of North America.
Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Center has been working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) since 2013 to respond to these entangled sea lions in British Columbia.
These types of rescues should not be attempted by the public, as sea lions are large and any wild animals should be treated with caution. If you see a possibly injured or entangled marine mammal, the Vancouver Aquarium urges you to call their Marine Mammal Rescue Center at at 604 258 SEAL (7325).