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Eyebright - Gunshot Sea Lion Saved!

Eyebright is a young male California sea lion that was shot in the face. After 5 surgeries and 3 months of care to repair the damage to his mouth, Eyebright is now well enough to return to the wild.

November 21, 2012

We have excellent news for you! The fifth and last surgery was a success. Eyebright received another checkup earlier this week and the hole in his mouth is now closed! Today Eyebright is going back to his ocean home.

Eyebright, sea lion, gunshot wound, 2012
Eyebright should have a bright future in the wild now that his rehabilitation is complete.
© Ingrid Overgard - The Marine Mammal Center

Eyebright's three months of specialized care and surgeries were only possible because of the support and generosity from our community - we can't do it without you!

Please make a life-saving gift to save other seal and sea lion patients like Eyebright today!

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November 12, 2012

After four surgeries to close a stubborn oronasal fistuala in Eyebright’s mouth that keeps reopening, our staff veterinarian Dr. Bill Van Bonn decided to try something that has never been tried in marine mammal before. The team used a new veterinary medical product called Rediheal™. Rediheal™ is made of bioreactive glass nanofibers. It looks like cotton candy! When placed in a wound the teeny, tiny, ultrathin glass fibers mimic fibrin fibers normally produced early in wound healing, essentially speeding up healing by getting a jump-start on the biological process. In the video above you can watch Dr. Bill Van Bonn and our veterinary intern Dr. Lorraine Barbosa performing Eyebright’s 5th surgery. We hope this will be his last!

October 30, 2012

Eyebright, sea lion, gunshot wound
An x-ray shows the multiple metal bullet fragments spread throughout Eyebright's head.
© Ingrid Overgard - The Marine Mammal Center

A victim of gun violence, Eyebright is a young male California sea lion that was shot in the face and is now blind in his right eye.  He was rescued from Oceano Dunes on September 2, 2012 with an obvious wound to his face and eye.

A shotgun fired at his face hit him in the mouth and blasted one of his canine teeth apart leaving in its place a hole. This hole goes from his mouth to his nose and is called an oronasal fistula. The Marine Mammal Center veterinarians performed surgery on Eyebright three times, removing fragments from his head and trying to close the fistula. But the fistula kept reopening.

Eyebright, sea lion, gunshot wound
The hole left in Eyebright's mouth will take some time to heal. Veterinarians will keep a close watch on this to make sure it doesn't get infected.
© Ingrid Overgard - The Marine Mammal Center

With eyesight in one eye, our veterinarians feel confident that he could survive in the wild, but unless the oronasal fistula is repaired, they fear he will be very reluctant to dive. Therefore it is the upmost priority that the hole between his mouth and nose be closed.

Our veterinarians asked for outside help and we were fortunate that an expert veterinary dentist, Dr. Steven E. Holmstrom was willing to donate his services to help Eyebright. A fourth surgery was performed and the fistula closed over again. However, even now there are fragments of shot and tooth in his head that cannot be removed. Dr. Holmstom also noted on his surgical report that the upper part of Eyebright’s jaw, called the maxilla, appears to be damaged and caving into his naval cavity.

Eyebright, sea lion, gunshot wound
Dr. Bill Van Bonn and Dr. Lorraine Barbosa examine Eyebright during a surgical procedure to repair a hole in his mouth - the result of a bullet.
© Ingrid Overgard - The Marine Mammal Center

In the photo above, you can see our veterinarians rechecking his mouth and discovering that the fistula is reopening a bit again. With stitches still in his mouth, Eyebright needs some more time to heal and it looks like he will need yet another surgical procedure to repair the damage.

The good news is that he is eating well and seems to be doing fine otherwise. We will keep you posted on his progress, so check back here often.


Read about Whirlybird, another sea lion blinded as a result of gun shot wounds.

Numbers you should know to report a marine mammal crime, including those that are victims of gunshots, entanglements or other injuries:

  • The Marine Mammal Center: (415) 289-SEAL (7325)
  • California Department of Fish and Game: 1-888-DFG-CALTIP (888-334-2258)
  • NOAA law enforcement hotline: 1-800-853-1964

  • It is illegal to harm or harass a marine mammal under the 1972 marine mammal protection act. Violators can be prosecuted and fines and even jail time imposed for convictions.


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