Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Injured Sea Lion Believed to be from Pier 39 Discovered at Monterey - But Escapes from Rescuers!

An injured and trussed sea lion, believed to be the one from Pier 39, was found this lunchtime 100 miles down the coast in Monterey Bay - but has eluded rescuers for the second time.

A call to the Marine Mammal Center at Moss Landing was received at 1 pm said a rescue spokesman this evening. Although there has not been a positive identification that it is the same sea lion, the animal had similar entanglements around his neck and muzzle and rescuers say there is a 'good chance' that it is the missing one.

'We mobilized a rescue unit with a water rescue team,' said the spokesman, which meant there were people both in the water and on the dock.

They made two attempts to capture the sea lion. On the first, at 3.00 pm, they were able to get within reach of him, but he slipped away. However, he resurfaced on another dock and a second attempt was made at 3.30 pm.

Rescuers had him in a net in the water, but 'by then he was very aware of our intentions,' said the spokesman, and he escaped.

Since then he has not resurfaced at Moss Landing but he is thought to be around the area.

One of the concerns about the animal when it was at Pier 39 was that the entanglement, that looked like a fishing line, was preventing him from eating.

'He is definitely thin, moderately underweight,' said the spokesman, but the 'good news', he added, is that sea lions are hardy animals and can endure weeks or even months with an entanglement before they are freed.

Were rescuers surprised to have found him as far away as Monterey?

'It's not unusual. These guys can travel large distances to Oregan and southern California,' he said.

The Marine Mammal Center at Moss Landing is part of the same unit in Sausalito from where the original search was launched. Jim Oswald, media spokesman for the Sausalito headquarters, said that eight members of the Monterey team had been involved in the rescue.

The animal had looked lethargic as rescuers approached within 12 ft, said Jim, giving the appearance of a much higher chance of a successful rescue, but he was 'much more "up" if you will.' On the first attempt they approached the animal from behind, and even though he dived off the dock into a kamikaze net in the water, he got out of the net and away.

Controversy has surrounded the initial finding of the sea lion at 10 pm on Friday night, regarding the Marine Mammal Center's refusal to attempt to rescue him until daylight the following morning. Conditions at Pier 39 were 'extremely dangerous,' said Jim.

The animal looked tantalizingly close, lying on the float in K-Dock. Could someone not have snipped the entanglement at least off his muzzle?

Jim agreed that camera footage had shown a docile animal but said that on approach an animal like that is likely to jump away. Also they did not know if the fishing line had embedded hooks into his neck.

'We don't know enough,' he said, and safety of both people and the animal was the main concern.

The sea lion was on a moving float without lights. Even if there were lights at the pier, the lights would not be able to be moved around to follow the animal in the water, he said.

Another hazard, he had since discovered, was what lies under the water in K-Dock. There is all kind of debris, trash and metal, he said. 'So that's why you want to be in daylight to see what is going on.'

With an animal rescue, he said, 'you get one chance. You have to make the most of the opportunity.'

For now, the center is on the alert for the sea lion and two others also reported with entanglements. One was seen at Hyde Street Pier and the other at Belvedere, beyond the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Marine Mammal Center has triage units in Sausalito, where a new center, four years in the building, opened last year, Moss Landing and Morro Bay. It covers a 600-mile stretch along the California coastline, from Mendocino County to San Luis Obispo County.

pics show volunteer Marjorie Boor searching for the sea lion on Saturday morning at Pier 39, and sea lions at the pier

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