It was a happy and emotional send off for Archie, a male California sea lion who was released back to the ocean this week after being rescued and rehabilitated by Marine Mammal Rescue Centre staff over the winter. He was discovered last November suffering from horrific injuries from a crossbow and gunshot wounds.
Nicknamed ‘Archie’ as a tribute to boat operator Archie Kenmuir who maneuvered the rescue team and sea lion to shore during a dramatic rescue, Archie, the sea lion, was released near Crescent Beach after intensive rehabilitation and medical treatment.
When he arrived at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre hospital, Archie was suffering from a massive necrotic puncture wound from the crossbow and was severely dehydrated and underweight as a result of the arrow’s damage. Veterinary staff also noticed abnormalities with his eyes. After stabilizing him, the vet team did further examinations and discovered he’d also been shot in the face resulting in impaired vision. With the help of veterinary ophthalmologist Dr. Jaqueline Pearce, Archie underwent surgery to restore his vision.
“He had been suffering for a long time. We’re really pleased to see a happy ending for Archie. Many animals are not so fortunate,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, Head Veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium and Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. You can track Archie’s movements via his satellite tag here.
It’s been a busy few days for the Marine Mammal Rescue team, especially given the realities of COVID-19 on staffing and operations. While preparing for Archie’s release this weekend, skeleton crews from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Marine Mammal Rescue were dispatched to Trail Islands to take advantage of the opportunity to help an entangled sea lion, with extra assistance from the Vancouver Police Dept. Marine Unit.
It was a complicated but smooth rescue, given the location of the animal and severity of the wound. Dr. Martin Haulena and his team were able to successfully dart the sea lion and disentangle her. The sea lion was a female Steller sea lion, deemed a species at risk, and had a plastic packing band deeply embedded in her neck. The packing band was recovered, and the animal was treated with antibiotics and returned to the water afterwards where it is hoped she will heal from her injuries and regain her health.
Dr. Martin Haulena and the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre staff make up a specialized response team of animal care and veterinary experts who can help intervene in wildlife welfare emergencies. The Marine Mammal Rescue Program rescues, rehabilitates, and releases hundreds of distressed marine mammals each year. The hospital facility will be temporarily closing for the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak, as a result of reduced volunteer capacity and critical funding that has been impacted by the Vancouver Aquarium closure. The Vancouver Aquarium S.O.S. (Save our Seals) donation program and ticket revenue generates over $220,000 to support the hospital and their rescue work each year.
During the temporary hospital closure, the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre team will continue to work closely with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on a case-by-case basis and will be prepared to respond when intervention is deemed necessary with additional precautions in place. The decision to rescue any marine mammal in Canadian waters is solely that of DFO.
If you see a marine mammal that you believe is in distress: stay back, keep people and pets away, please call the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) hotline at 1-800-465-4336.
You can help support the ongoing mission and work of Ocean Wise by becoming a donor.