British Columbia

California sea lion rescued off Salt Spring Island

A California sea lion in "serious" trouble was rescued from Salt Spring Island on Monday and is receiving treatment in Vancouver.

Vancouver Aquarium says sea lion's condition too precarious to diagnose

The Vancouver Aquarium says this California sea lion's condition is too precarious to diagnose. (Vancouver Aquarium)

A California sea lion in "serious" trouble was rescued from Salt Spring Island on Monday and is receiving treatment in Vancouver. 

"We had several reports of a male sea lion in distress on Salt Spring through the weekend," said Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium.

"From the photographs we got ... he's in very poor condition: very, very thin. I can see his ribs, his spine ... massive weight loss."

The sea lion was lethargic and remained in the same spot for several days, he said. 

Haulena helped bring the sea lion to Vancouver along with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre on Salt Spring Island.

Barely able to float

The aquarium says veterinary staff are now working to stabilize the animal, an adult male believed to be between five and seven-years-old.

He is being treated with subcutaneous fluids, gastric protectants and antibiotics. Even back in the pool in Vancouver, the sea lion was barely able to float in the water.

"We're in a tricky position," said Haulena.

"The animal is in such poor condition that now is not the time to perform potentially stressful medical procedures, but without that diagnostic information, you can't target your treatment."

The aquarium says the sea lion will remain under observation, and once his condition has stabilized, he'll undergo further examination.

California sea lions are one of three types of eared seals found in B.C. waters and they are not considered a species at risk.

The aquarium says the sea lion will remain under observation, and once his condition has stabilized, he’ll undergo further examination. (Vancouver Aquarium)

Still, Haulena says it's important to help animals in distress.

"People care about this animal. They want to find out what is wrong with him, and they want to help him or at least limit his suffering."

It's not clear yet why the sea lion was in trouble. 

"We have a relatively poor understanding of the threats that pinnipeds face in British Columbia compared to, for example, California. Yet we do know there are human interactions, diseases such as domoic acid toxicity, leptospirosis, and cryptococcosis in local sea lions that can affect humans as well as marine mammals," said Haulena. 


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