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Unique Rescue Attempt of Clippy the Harbor Seal!

In a first for The Marine Mammal Center, a mild sedative was used to help aid in the rescue attempt of an entangled harbor seal in Sausalito.

 October 4, 2012

Clippy, rescue, harbor seal, entanglement
Clippy the harbor seal rests with other harbor seals on a floating dock in Sausalito.
© The Marine Mammal Center

When our rescue unit received a call of an entangled adult harbor seal sitting on top of a floating dock at Sausalito's Clipper Yacht Harbor, they knew they had to think out of the box to try to help this animal. This animal had been seen in August of this year, but without a safe access to assist her, today's locational report gave them hope of a successful rescue. The process to rescue any marine mammal is always tricky - they're wild animals after all. But, to be able to safely rescue one with an entanglement wrapped around her neck and on a moving floating object, such as a dock, with the potential of the animal to dive into the water and swim away is even more of a challenge.

Our team decided to try a new approach - at least one for this species. Once assembled on site, the team slowly slipped into a Zodiac boat and glided close to the dock where Clippy, as the female harbor seal was named, to get within a reasonable range to shoot a dart into her loaded with a mild sedative. The sedative can slow the animal down giving rescuers enough time to jump into action to capture the animal before she goes into the water.  This is not an exact science - many parameters have to be figured into the rescue equation including the estimated weight of the animal and the proportional amount of sedative to be loaded into the dart. Earlier this year, the team used this technique to rescue an entangled sea lion named Evader, and in 2007 the technique was debuted for the first time on two free-swimming humpback whales named Delta & Dawn.

Clippy, rescue, harbor seal
Geno DeRango, Michelle Barbieri and Shawn Johnson from The Marine Mammal Center, slowly approach Clippy to administer the sedative via a dart gun.
© The Marine Mammal Center

Once the team was in place, both in the boat and spotters on land, the team in the boat was able dart her. While they were able to get a net over her, she was still pretty feisty and swam away from it and the team. Fortunately, because the sedative is mild, there was no fear of her falling asleep in the water and drowning and the team knew that she would be all right, despite the entanglement. It is most likely that the dart has come out of her. They hope to see Clippy very soon and make another attempt to rescue her.


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