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Entangled Sea Lion at PIER 39 Gets Himself Into a Pickle

When a sea lion was spotted at PIER 39 with monofilament fishing line wrapped around his neck, The Marine Mammal Center launched a daring rescue mission to save him.

June 19, 2014

Pickles on the dock at PIER 39.
© Alyssa Rickman, The Marine Mammal Center


San Francisco’s PIER 39, a hub for shops, restaurants and attractions, isn’t just a draw for tourists—it’s a popular hangout for California sea lions looking for a dry spot of “land” on which to haul out. The pier’s floating docks host hundreds of sea lions during the peak seasons of spring and fall. Most of these animals are healthy males using the docks as a resting place during their migration up and down the California coast.

But on June 6, an animal in need of rescue was spotted among the lounging crowd. The 117-pound juvenile sea lion had a visible wound around his neck—a clear sign of a dangerous entanglement that would only get worse as he continued to grow in size.

Getting the sea lion off the dock and into our care would require a special rescue operation, but knowing that this animal needed help right away, our stranding and veterinary teams sprang into action.

Within hours, they had coordinated with local officials and mobilized a rescue team, including a PIER 39 boat driver whose pickle tattoo inspired the animal’s name, “Pickles.”

As spotters on solid land kept their eyes on Pickles, the crew piled into the boat and headed toward the floating docks. Any sudden movements could scare Pickles into the water, so they had to move slowly and keep an eye on their target.

Once they were close enough, Dr. Greg Frankfurter, Koret Foundation Veterinary Intern, used a special dart gun to administer remote sedation, temporarily slowing Pickles down enough to allow for capture.

Watch a video of entangled sea lion Pickles being rescued:

After the sedatives took effect, they were able to approach the dock via boat and net Pickles before he jumped into the water. The team secured Pickles in a carrier, and Dr. Frankfurter reversed the sedation.

Pickles stayed at the Center’s hospital for less than 48 hours. During an initial exam, our veterinary experts determined that he was relatively healthy aside from the wound caused by his entanglement. After anesthetizing Pickles, they removed the monofilament fishing line embedded in his skin and applied antibiotic ointment to treat the infected wound.

On June 8, World Oceans Day, Pickles was released back to the wild at Rodeo Beach, just steps from The Marine Mammal Center.

Pickles is released at Rodeo Beach shortly after the monofilament fishing line was removed from his neck.
© Jennifer Morrow, The Marine Mammal Center

You can help The Marine Mammal Center rescue and rehabilitate sea lions that are the victims of ocean trash. You can make a difference!



Learn about: California sea lions

Join the campaign to Stop Trashing our Oceans

Learn how you can: Get Involved to Help Marine Mammals!


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