The California sea lion rescued Friday afternoon from the beach at Spanish Banks by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre is suffering from injuries inflicted by gunshots to his face, likely from a small-calibre gun.
The Rescue Centre received reports about the adult male sea lion on Friday: he was emaciated, lethargic and not responsive to activity around him on the busy public beach. Team members attended in the afternoon and transported him back to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre for treatment. Since his rescue occurred on May 5 — Cinco de Mayo — on Spanish Banks, the team named him Señor Cinco.
After several days of supportive therapy and medication to stabilize him, the veterinary team gave the animal a full exam under general anesthetic on Tuesday. The diagnosis was grim: he was shot at least twice in the face, with bullets shattering his teeth, blinding him in one eye, and possibly hitting his optic nerve. The injuries were not new and he’s underweight, which means Señor Cinco has likely been in distress for weeks, said Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium and director of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.
“The injuries he sustained at the hands of humans left him in pain and unable to forage on his own. We’re happy we can ease his suffering, but he has a long road to recovery ahead,” said Dr. Haulena.
It’s not yet possible to know if Señor Cinco will be a candidate for release or if he would require long-term care — release is the goal for every animal rescued by the Marine Mammal Rescue Program. As always, it’s a decision made by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) breed off the coast of Southern California and the Baja peninsula. During the non-breeding season, large numbers of animals, mostly male, migrate north to B.C. Despite being hunted for thousands of years until they were protected in the 1970s, the current population of California sea lions is considered healthy.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Program assists distressed marine mammals from the British Columbia coastline. Patients range from elephant and harbour seals, sea otters, sea lions, sea turtles, harbour porpoises, false killer whales, dolphins and other cetaceans including killer whales. In the past 12 months, 174 marine mammals have been admitted to the Rescue Centre for treatment.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, presented by Port Metro Vancouver, is a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals. The Rescue Centre rescues stranded marine mammals and rehabilitates them for release back into their natural habitat. Donate to the Rescue Centre at www.vanaqua.org/mmr