Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hunt for Injured Pier 39 Sea Lion

A sea hunt for an injured sea lion spotted yesterday by tourists at Pier 39 has been underway from early this morning.

The Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito sent out a small craft at daylight to scour the bay.

The sea lion was seen yesterday on a float down the front of Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf with what NBC11 reported as wire or netting wrapped around his muzzle and possibly rope around his neck.

However, although members of the Marine Mammal Center went late at night to see the sea lion, early this morning it slipped off the float and disappeared into the bay. Marjorie Boor, a volunteer with the center who was at the helm of the search craft, said she thought it had gone back into the water sometime around 6.30 to 7.00 am.

The sea lion is considered to be a 'pretty big' male, weighing around 350-375 pounds.

'We are in "watch and wait" mode, Marjorie said, having pulled up her craft in K-Dock just before midday.

She wasn't sure of the extent of the injuries or entanglement. There was a possibility the sea lion had managed to shake the noose off his muzzle and was able to swim and feed unhampered. 'Basically, he's going out to forage,' she said.

'The worse case scenario is that he won't be able to eat, he'll be so weak we'll be able to pick him up, take him to the center and fatten him up.' She was confident that the sea lion, if still in distress, would be found over the next couple of days because injured sea lions haul out, she said.

Her search was taking her between Pier 39 and Alcatraz, where there were bull seals, and around the Embarcadero and Hyde Street Pier.

It has been reported by NBC11 that early onlookers were critical of the apparent lack of action taken by the Marine Mammal Center.

However, Marjorie said that trying to pick up sea lions that are not restrained and secure is a risky business.

'They are intelligent. You can look them in the eye and tell there's some connection there. But make no mistake, they'll bite your arm right off.'

Anaesthesia was also not the answer, she said. To pick up a sea lion, a 'kamikaze' net would need to be put around the float. But sea lions can twist their necks quickly in a figure of 8, flip out of the net and slip into the water and disappear.

The danger to the sea lion is that if it flipped out before the drug had taken effect, it would die in the sea. The other problem generally with an anaesthetic is that it masks the condition of an animal. We need to know 'how up is it?' she said.

'The last thing we want to do is pick up an animal. They're better at healing themselves than we are.'

Marjorie was the only person from the center searching the bay because it is a land-based operation and is not equipped or licensed to pick up wild animals in the sea, she added.

What did she think of the missing herd of sea lions from Pier 39 who from being at record numbers of over 1,500 animals in the fall and rising to 1,700, had mysteriously dwindled to a handful by the end of November? And where did she think they might be?

They had gone in search of food, she said, listing some of the places she thought they would be: the Farallon Islands, Moss Beach, the Channel Islands, off the southern California coast, and Año Nuevo Island, where there is a herd of elephant seals.

The sea lions have famously been at Pier 39 for exactly 20 years this month, moving there in the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Although they are migratory, their numbers have never been so low.

'I've seen them disappear before, but I've seen them come back!' said Marjorie.

'They'll be back!'

pics show news crews and a few early morning tourists scanning K-Dock; a handful of midday tourists with only three sea lions and themselves to photograph

An on-the-spot report by CBS5 journalist, Joe Vazquez, not only captures the plight of the injured sea lion on camera but details the conflict between Erin Brodie, Stranding Coordinator of the Marine Mammal Center, who said protocols prevented a nighttime rescue attempt, and members of the public who wanted to see immediate intervention.

Tonight there are reports of a second sea lion being spotted with entanglements at Hyde Street Pier at the opposite end of Fisherman's Wharf. Jim Oswald, media spokesperson for the Marine Mammal Center, is reported on CBS5 as saying that two rescue attempts failed and the sea lion slipped back into the sea.



Anonymous said...

This sounds like a load of garbage. After sitting on the dock all night do we really think it went into the water because a miracle happened and the rope feel off the neck and nose. Doubtful at best. I think that he could not wait any longer in the position and went into the water to die. I am very saddened by what I saw and that no one would help.

Shirleybear said...

I totally agree! If the people (the marine mammal control) who are suppose to look after them and provide assistance to the sea lions don't show up to do their job, what hopes do we have helping these poor strained animals!! this is sad and infuriating!! How can they sit around enjoying new years day while letting a poor injured sea lion suffer in pain!!!

Anonymous said...

I too am still feeling for the poor Sea Lion. VERY SAD. Obviously, he came up on the deck asking for help but no one bothered. I could not believe my ears hearing the woman from the Marine Center explain away like a robot. You may not admit publicly but I hope that deep inside you realize it was a big mistake not to help. God bless us all.