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Sgt. Nevis the Sea Lion - Gunshot Wound Victim

Update: October 15, 2010

Today, the Sutter County District Attorney's Office announced the successful criminal prosecution of a North Highlands man, accused in the November, 2009 shooting of Sgt. Nevis the sea lion. Larry Allen Legans was convicted of shooting the sea lion with a shotgun slug and he was convicted of intentionally maiming or wounding a living animal in violation of Penal Code Section 597(a). Mr. Legans was sentenced to 30 days in jail, five years probation, and to pay restitution of $51,081.48 which will go toward the expenses of treating Sgt. Nevis the sea lion while he was at The Marine Mammal Center.

Sgt. Nevis Undergoes First-of-its-Kind Reconstructive Surgery to Close Gunshot Wounds on his Face

On October 8, 2010, Sgt. Nevis, the California sea lion that was seriously injured when he was allegedly shot by a fisherman in the Sacramento River, had major reconstructive surgery at Six Flags in Vallejo to close the gunshot wound on his face. Washington D.C. facial reconstruction surgeon Dr. Praful Ramenini flew out to perform this delicate surgery. Dr. Ramenini was supported by Center's veterinarians Dr. Bill Van Bonn and Dr. Vanessa Fravel as well as veterinarians Dr. Diana Procter and Dr. Nancy Anderson from Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. The complicated surgery was needed to cover the open, crater-like wound under his eyes. The extent of the gunshot injury had forced Sgt. Nevis to modify his breathing. He was unable to dive or put his head under water, and he was at risk for infection. Equally important, because it was human interference that caused the marine mammal's injury, Center and Six Flags staff felt a strong need to correct the situation as much as possible. Dr. Ramenini generously agreed to donate his services in support of this amazing effort.

Once Sgt. Nevis was sedated and positioned for surgery, the surgeons covered the wound by loosening skin on his forehead, then rotating and stretching it to cover the wound. The nearly two-hour-long procedure required anesthesia of the almost 700 pound animal. Once the surgery was completed, the crowd of veterinarians watched intensely waiting for the sea lion to "wake up." After a bit, everyone breathed a sigh of relief as he began to lift his head and look around at his surroundings. Within the hour, he was even eating a few fish!

Sgt. Nevis will spend a few days in dry recovery in the Six Flags' Vet Clinic air-conditioned quarantine room before being moved back to his relatively new home at the Seal Cove exhibit. Since his arrival at Seal Cove, he has quickly become a favorite amongst park staff. He's repeatedly described as gentle, patient, smart and quick to learn. He's picked up on basic behavioral trainings such as allowing trainers to touch him and getting used to people moving around him. Sgt. Nevis also has adapted well to being with the other animals in the exhibit. In fact, he already has a special spot on the "beach" section of the exhibit - right next to the young female sea lions Ella and Indigo! 


May 14, 2010 - Sgt. Nevis Makes his Debut at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom's Seal Cove in Vallejo!

The 650-pound California sea lion, nicknamed Sgt. Nevis after Yolo County Officer Michael Nevis who helped The Marine Mammal Center rescue him, made his public debut on May 14, 2010. The adult male California sea lion has four harbor seal and four California sea lion pool mates. The sea lion was rescued from Knight's Landing in Yolo County on December 5 by the Center's water rescue unit. Previously, he had eluded rescuers, and had been in various areas along the Sacramento River and even at PIER 39 in San Francisco. At the hospital in Sausalito, veterinarians and volunteers provided medical care to flush the deep bullet wounds on either side of his nose, administered antibiotics, and kept the pinniped's nourishment up. Because of the extent of his injuries which prevent him from diving deeply to forage and the fact that he would most likely return to the same areas where he would be in danger of being shot again, veterinarians knew that he would not have a productive or long life in the wild and found him a home at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA. There, he will receive the best care and be among other pinnipeds. You can see Sgt. Nevis at Six Flags' Seal Cove exhibit.

Sadly, many marine mammals such as sea lions like Sgt. Nevis, are found wounded as a result of having been shot with bullets, pellets, or buckshot. 

March 3, 2010

Sgt. Nevis was transferred to Six Flags Discovery Kingdom on March 3 where he serves as ambassador for his species and his story is used to educate the public. While there were some significant gains in treating his gunshot wounds at the Center, they will not heal completely and the damage to his nasal cavity meant that would not likely survive in the wild. The choice to transfer Sgt. Nevis was hard, but veterinarians from both organizations agreed that he will thrive at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom with the other sea lions. He is currently the largest sea lion Six Flags has on site, weighing in at 295 kg (650 lbs) which is a far cry from the 163 kg (340 lbs) he weighed upon admit to the Center. He is currently getting used to his new digs, and in a month, he will be unveiled in his new habitat for the public to see.

December 08, 2009

Sgt. Nevis was in critical condition suffering from damage to his nasal passage as a result of injuries consistent with a gunshot. He ate about 2 pounds of fish, but was still lethargic. Veterinarians treated the infected wound with antibiotics and continued to increase the amount of food offered to him now that he is eating. Sgt. Nevis has two young sea lion roommates to keep him company in his pen - Breadstick and Lightyear. Breadstick was rescued suffering from a gunshot wound to his eye, as well as lungworms and malnourishment . The Center's veterinarians removed the damaged eye and are treating the other medical issues.

December 5, 2009

During the morning hours of December 5, the Center's Special Rescue Operations team arrived at Knights Landing in Yolo County to try another attempt at rescuing the pinniped.  He was clearly losing weight and lethargic. The 340-pound adult California sea lion was spotted on a large floating dock making a rescue attempt possible, both for the safety of the sea lion, and for the rescuers. Armed with nets, herding boards and resolve, the team consisting of six Center members and officers from the Yolo County Sheriff's Department successfully netted the animal. They moved him to a barge that shuttled him to shore where he could be loaded into a sturdy carrier and taken to the Center's hospital headquarters in Sausalito. He received medical care for the wound including antibiotics and examinations to determine the extent and seriousness of the injury. Originally nicknamed "Sammy" by the public and media, he was officially named "Sgt. Nevis" after Yolo County Officer Michael Nevis who spent all morning keeping watch over the sea lion and helping the team with the rescue. This is a customary tradition the Center upholds as a way of expressing gratitude to those who help during rescue efforts.

Sgt. Nevis, the sea lion, received a special visit from Sgt. Nevis, the human!

November 21, 2009

The Sacramento Bee reports that a Sacramento fisherman admitted to shooting a sea lion. During that morning, a team of state Fish & Game officials raided the man's home, arresting him and confiscating his shotgun. A witness reported spotting him allegedly shooting at the sea lion known then as "Sammy". An ongoing investigation continues.

November 12, 2009

The Marine Mammal Center attempted the first of what would be four rescue efforts to rescue a 340-pound adult California sea lion that was spotted on a dock on the Sacramento River with an injury consistent with that of a gunshot wound. Experts attempted to rescue this animal in order to treat the wounds, but he eluded them, diving back into the water. In the weeks after November 12, the same sea lion was spotted in other areas in the Delta and at PIER 39 in San Francisco, each time avoiding rescue by the Center, or hauling out in areas not safe for mounting a rescue.

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