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Snouty Overcomes an Ugly Entanglement

Entangled marine mammals show the face of human negligence toward ocean trash. They also present some of the most difficult rescues for The Marine Mammal Center. They are wild animals, naturally wary of possible predators, and have no way to comprehend that our intentions are to help them.

September 29, 2014

It's always great to hear that one of our former patients is doing well in the wild. Naturalist Barton Selby sent us this photo of Snouty, lounging with the other sea lions on the Sea Harvest Dock at Moss Landing. He is looking well, recovering from his disfiguring entanglement, and doing what sea lions do. Thank you, Barton, and thank you to all our supporters who helped Snouty truly get a second chance at life.

© Barton Selby


July 25, 2014

Snouty heads straight to the surf, when he is released at Rodeo Beach.
© Rachel Assink, The Marine Mammal Center


Snouty was released this morning at Rodeo Beach in the Marin Headlands. He spent a month at the Center, getting treated for the wounds inflicted by the horrible entanglement he suffered. After the trash was removed, he needed a little time to recover, giving veterinarians a chance to make sure that his wounds were healed and that he was in good overall health. He developed a reputation among volunteers for a very aggressive personality, a good indication that he has a strong will to survive.

Snouty is back home in the ocean now, hopefully feeling much better after the trying ordeal he has been through. His story is a vivid lesson in the horrible consequences of ocean trash and a rallying cry to human beings to take action to Stop Trashing Our Oceans!

July 17, 2014

Snouty was spotted multiple times in Monterey and Moss Landing, over a period of several months before his rescue.
© The Marine Mammal Center


In many cases, an entangled animal will evade capture for months, while ocean trash, such as packing straps or fishing line, tightens around them, hampering their ability to eat, swim, and survive.

Snouty was one such animal. He was spotted multiple times over a period of several months, in an area ranging from the Coast Guard Jetty in Monterey to the floating dock next to the Sea Harvest restaurant in Moss Landing. This male juvenile California sea lion had a severe entanglement around his mouth and nose that was described by a caller as a "fishing line and possible metal trap," along with "various debris hanging off his muzzle."

Snouty was first reported to the Center on March 30, 2014, when he was hauled out at the Coast Guard Jetty. Over the next three months, more than 20 people called the Center and reported seeing him. They described him in vivid and disturbing terms, reporting that he "appeared in distress" and "cannot open mouth."

The crab snare and fishing line that were entangled around Snouty's snout.
© Marge Brigadier, The Marine Mammal Center

One of the caring people who called the Center to report Snouty's entanglement was Marge Brigadier, who spends a lot of time at the Coast Guard Pier. Marge volunteers as a docent with Bay Net, an organization that works to raise awareness about ocean trash and the impact it has on wildlife. Over the past four years, Marge has collected large quantities of discarded fishing line, weights, lures, and other fishing debris. In the last year and a half alone, she has picked up more than 1,600 fishing hooks. Last Friday, she added 16 more to her collection.

Marge has also reported many entangled marine mammals to the Center over the years. "Bay Net volunteers have seen a lot of sea lions and harbor seals with all kinds of different entanglements," said Marge. "There has even been a report of a sea otter trying to eat a sea urchin that was wrapped in fishing line!"

Various rescue attempts were made by the Center's Special Rescue Operations team, but Snouty proved to be too elusive for his own good. Finally, on June 26, he was rescued from a buoy in Monterey Harbor. The team approached the buoy cautiously in a boat, using a range finder to pinpoint the exact distance between them and Snouty. They then made use of an acoustic transmitter dart to give him a mild sedative to slow him down. Once sedated, Snouty was picked up with a net and brought back to the shore where he was loaded onto a waiting truck.

Watch the dramatic video of rescuers darting
Snouty as he sits on a buoy in Monterey Harbor.

After arriving at the Center's hospital in Sausalito, the delicate task of removing the entanglement from Snouty's face began. The debris hanging from his muzzle turned out to be what is known as a "crab snare," a small trap that is used in the fishing industry to hold bait for crabs. Monofilament fishing line was also wrapped tightly around Snouty's snout, along with plastic lines coming from the trap and several wires and hooks. The pain and stress of carrying around this combined accumulation of trash were a lot for a young sea lion to handle.

Snouty was bleeding a lot when he arrived at the Center, as the entangled debris was digging deeply into his face. He was anesthetized while the fishing line was cut off and removed from his snout. Then his wounds were evaluated by veterinarians, and he was given antibiotics and anti-inflammatories to help him in his recovery.

Snouty was evaluated again after a couple of weeks and his wounds were carefully sutured to help them heal. During his stay at the Center, he has exhibited a healthy appetite and a very aggressive attitude. He has a powerful will to survive, in spite of his disfiguring injury. 

Snouty is disturbingly disfigured now that the entangled debris has been removed.
© Rachel Assink, The Marine Mammal Center

Snouty will soon have a second chance at life when he returns to his ocean home. He may not be the prettiest boy in the ocean, but great beauty springs from the adversity he has overcome. The sculptor Auguste Rodin remarked that "to the artist there is never anything ugly in nature." The only thing truly ugly about Snouty is the pain inflicted upon him by human carelessness.

You can help entangled animals like Snouty regain their dignity and return to the wild. Please consider making a donation.


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