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Our Entangled Patients

The Marine Mammal Center has rescued many patients over the years that were suffering from the effects of severe entanglements in ocean trash. Here are just a few of their stories.

Dr. Lorraine Barbosa uses a specialized dart to sedate Green Tie.
© Sharron Jackman - The Marine Mammal Center

Green Tie - Northern Elephant Seal
In November 2011, a 700-pound elephant seal was spotted at the Piedras Blancas rookery on the central coast with a green packing strap wrapped tightly around his neck. A team of rescuers from the Center, led by Dr. Michelle Barbieri, traveled down the coast to disentangle the animal, who was given the name Green Tie.

It was quite a challenge to net Green Tie, sedate him, and cut away the packing strap from his neck. The wound was then cleaned and a tag was attached to his flipper so he could be identified in the future. Green Tie woke up 20 minutes later and went back into the water.

Green Tie was spotted more than a year later on the same beach. Members of the public noted the still visible deep wound around his neck and reported an entangled animal. It wasn't until after he was sedated, this time by Dr. Lorraine Barbosa, that his flipper tag was found and he was identifed as Green Tie. An examination revealed he had skin fold dermatitis in the wound, but no serious health problems.

Read all about Green Tie.

Dr. Greg Frankfurter, Koret Foundation Veterinary Intern, removes the entangled rubber band from H.C.'s neck.
© Geno DeRango - The Marine Mammal Center

H.C. - California Sea Lion
H.C. was spotted with an entanglement by visitors to the Monterey Wharf in June 2013. He managed to elude rescuers for several weeks until he was spotted again during a routine training session by the Center's Special Rescue Operations (SRO) team.

The team spotted H.C. on a crossbeam under the pillars of the wharf and made a plan to rescue him. Nets were put into position near the animal and he was flushed off of the beam. It takes great skill to get a wily sea lion to land in a carefully placed net and this rescue went off fairly smoothly.

H.C. was brought to the Center's hospital in Sausalito, where he was sedated while veterinarians carefully removed an inch wide rubber band from his neck. He recuperated at the Center for a few days and then was released back to the ocean.

H.C. got his name from the first initials of Heather Willis and Casey Visintin, who were taking part in the training session and were able to carry out their first rescue.

Read all about H.C.

Gray whale entangled in two crab pot lines north of Dillon Beach in Marin County. NOAA MMHSRP permit # 932-1905.
© Lincoln Shaw - The Marine Mammal Center

Gray Whale Rescue
A juvenile gray whale, estimated to be 25 feet long, was spotted by sightseers in Bodega Bay in May 2012, entangled in 25 feet of crab pot line. Together with the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Northern California Whale Entanglement Team (WET), and the U.S. Coast Guard, The Marine Mammal Center coordinated a rescue effort to disentangle the whale.

The rescuers found that the whale was entangled in two sets of commercial crab pot gear, with one of the lines caught in the whale's mouth. The entanglement had become twisted around the whale's jaw as the young cetacean tried to work itself free, making a bad situation even worse.

The rescue team moved in with a small boat, maneuvering it close to the whale. Using a serrated jamming knife attached to a long pole, they were able to cut off the rope from the animal's mouth, allowing it to swim free!

The crab pots, lines, and fishing gear were all gathered up, to prevent future entanglements and also to try to identify the source of this ocean trash.

Read all about the gray whale rescue.

The entangled rope around Gordo's midsection was clearly visible from the cliff above the beach.
© The Marine Mammal Center

Gordo - Northern Elephant Seal

Gordo presented one of the most challenging rescues ever attempted by The Marine Mammal Center. From the top of a cliff along the Big Sur coast, he was spotted with a rope wrapped tightly around the center of his body.

Rescuers from The Marine Mammal Center, led by Dr. Rebecca Greene, traveled down from Sausalito to Big Sur, near the town of Gorda. The first challenge the team faced was getting down the steep face of the cliff, all the while carrying armloads of equipment and veterinary supplies.

Once down on the beach, the team had to wait for the right moment, when the animal was out of the water and other seals were a safe distance away from him. They then sedated Gordo, cut off the entangled rope, and gave him some antibiotics to prevent infection of the wound.

Shortly thereafter, Gordo woke up and went back into the ocean. One of the big advantages to a field rescue is that salt water is ideal for healing the deep wounds caused by entanglement.

Read all about Gordo.

Dart Man's deep wound shows how severely an entanglement can injure an animal.
© The Marine Mammal Center

Dart Man - California Sea Lion
Trying to rescue a large male sea lion with an entanglement is a daunting challenge. Dart Man, who weighed 437 pounds, was spotted at PIER 39 with a piece of packing strap wrapped tightly around his neck and cutting deeply into his blubber.

After eluding rescuers for several weeks, Dart Man was finally netted by a rescue team from the Center in March 2012. The packing strap was cut away and Dart Man was carried on a stretcher to one of PIER 39's boats, which brought him to shore. He was then driven to the Center, where the wound was treated and a physical exam was carried out.

Other than the deep wound caused by the entanglement, Dart Man was found to be in good health. Two days later, he got to go home to the ocean. He was released at Rodeo Beach, just down the hill from the Center.

Read all about Dart Man.

SRO is released at Rodeo Beach.
© Ingrid Overgard - The Marine Mammal Center

SRO - California Sea Lion
SRO was named in honor of the Special Rescue Operations team, which carries out rescues of marine mammals when they are in the water or only accessible from the water. This 350-pound male sea lion was rescued in Monterey in February 2013 with a loop of monofilament fishing line wrapped around his neck.

SRO was brought from Monterey to the Center's hospital, where the fishing line was carefully cut away. A blood sample was taken in order to check for any other health problems, but SRO passed his physical exam with flying colors!

Two days later, he was transported down the hill to Rodeo Beach, where he was released back to the ocean. Another successful rescue for the SRO team and another healthy sea lion got to go back home!

Read all about SRO.

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