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Chippy: The Media Darling


Chippy was found by CHP officers near Los Baños on February 9, 2004. The 315-pound adult California sea lion made news headlines and television broadcasts around the world after his amazing journey down the San Joaquin River channel, some 65-miles away from the ocean. Chippy, as he was named by officers, was rescued by staff and volunteers from The Marine Mammal Center’s Monterey Bay operations, then transported to our main Sausalito hospital facility for medical attention. Upon examination and x-rays, veterinarians discovered a bullet lodged in soft tissue just behind Chippy’s skull. The bullet was removed by veterinarians and Chippy recovered nicely. The bullet was turned over to the National Marine Fisheries Service where an investigation into who may have shot the pinniped began. To date, the case had not been solved. Shooting of a marine mammal is a crime under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and carries with it fines as hefty as $20,000.

In preparation for his release back to the wild, our veterinarians attached a radio tag that would help scientists understand where Chippy liked to hang out. On March 3, Chippy was released into the ocean near Point Reyes National Seashore.  A few days later, he was spotted at PIER 39 hanging out with the other sea lions.  He gave us the slip shortly after that, having knocked off his radio tag.  Apparently, he didn't want to be in the limelight anymore!  His story brought attention to the ongoing issues marine mammals face in the wild, which include human-caused actions that negatively impact marine mammals and the ocean.

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