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Sea Lions SRO and Ear Muffs are Freed From Entanglements!

The Marine Mammal Center’s Special Rescue Operations team carried out two tricky rescues in Monterey recently, saving two entangled sea lions.

February 28, 2013

The Marine Mammal Center sent a team of highly trained staff and volunteers, known as the Special Rescue Operations team, to Monterey on February 23, 2013 to look for several California sea lions that were reportedly entangled. The team was able to capture two sea lions, a young male named “Ear Muffs”, and a 350 lb male named “SRO” – named in honor of the Special Rescue Operations team. Both sea lions had fishing line wrapped around their head and necks.

 (Video courtesy of Patrick Hilton and Ken Fisher)

The first sea lion to be rescued, SRO, was found resting on a wooden crossbeam under a dock attached to the Monterey Jetty - not at all an easy place to try and rescue an active animal as you can see from the video above!

SRO dives into the water where a net has been strategically placed to capture him.
© Lorraine Barbosa - The Marine Mammal Center

Using a boat to get close, the team quietly put a submarine net in place in the water and then two members of the team went into the water to flush SRO towards the net. It worked! They caught the 350 lb entangled sea lion and transported him to the Center’s hospital in Sausalito so that veterinarians could anesthetize him and remove the entanglement.

Under anesthesia, Center veterinarian Dr. Lorraine Barbosa removes a single loop of fishing line (center of image) from around SRO’s neck.
© Geno DeRango - The Marine Mammal Center

The next day, Center veterinarians anesthetized SRO and were able to cut the single loop of monofilament fishing line off of his upper neck and clean his wounds. A blood sample was taken to check if SRO had any other medical problems.

Luckily he did not, so he was released at Rodeo beach, right down the road from our hospital, the next day. Watch the slide show below of SRO’s return back to the ocean, entanglement free!

SRO slide 01

California sea lion SRO was rescued in Monterey on February 23, 2013.
Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.

SRO slide 02

SRO was found with a single strand of fishing line looped around his face.
Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.

SRO slide 03

The next day he was disentangled at The Marine Mammal Center.
Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.

SRO slide 04

After two days at the Center, SRO was ready to go back to the ocean!
Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.

SRO slide 05

Releasing a 350-pound animal can be challenging.
Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.

SRO slide 06

SRO says his goodbyes.
Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.

SRO slide 07

SRO appears happy to see the ocean again.
Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.

SRO slide 08

Here come the waves!
Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.

SRO slide 09

Into the surf he goes! Goodbye SRO!
Photo by Ingrid Overgard © The Marine Mammal Center.



 Second Inning - Team 2: Ocean Trash: 0

It was a busy day for the Special Rescue Operations team - they located a second sea lion with a facial entanglement on Randy’s Dock (pictured below).

The yellow arrow (center) points to “Ear Muffs,” a young California sea lion with an entanglement around his head. In tricky scenarios like this one, The Marine Mammal Center's Special Rescue Operations team is called into action.
© Lisa Fitch - The Marine Mammal Center

Using a boat, rescuers approached Randy’s Dock so one person could hop onto the dock with a hoop net and capture Ear Muffs. They were successful in mounting a second rescue that same day!

Ear Muffs was taken by boat, still in the hoop net, back to the docks. There he was restrained while one of the Center’s veterinarians cut him free from the entanglement that, like SRO’s, was a single monofilament line wrapped around his head. While the line was embedded in the skin, after it was removed, he appeared to have no other injuries and so, Ear Muffs was immediately released back to the water.

This photo was taken in June 2012. The entanglement around Ear Muff's head makes him easy to spot among the other juvenile sea lions.
© Lisa Fitch - The Marine Mammal Center

The Marine Mammal Center’s rescue hotline had received multiple reports about Ear Muffs since April 2012 but he was always in places were a rescue would be difficult or dangerous. The Center’s Stranding Dept maintains a list of entangled pinnipeds that they monitor, looking for ways to safely rescue them. Because these animals are mobile, it takes time, patience, luck and above all, effective coordination to carryout these complex rescues.

Over the last year, a task force of Center volunteers, staff, board members and partners have created and documented the Special Rescue Operations (SRO) process. Since 1995 the Center has responded to special rescue situations in which an injured or entangled marine mammal cannot be reached by our normal rescue teams and requires a water-based rescue – formerly known as the “Water Rescue Team”.

As these two stories demonstrate, there is clearly a need to help entangled sea lions that cannot be reached by our normal land-based rescue volunteers. The Special Rescue Operations team builds on the history of the former “Water Rescue Team” and will allow the Center to conduct more of these non-standard, water based rescues throughout our rescue range.



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