Scars from his wounds were still visible when the sea lion named Freedom was sent back to his ocean home in San Pedro earlier this week. They will be with him for life.
But he was among the lucky ones.
When the Marine Animal Rescue found Freedom in August on the sands of Redondo Beach, the sea lion was severely malnourished and entangled in a gill net.
“Sea lions are very playful and almost have kind of a dog-like behavior,” said Amber Becerra, president of the Marine Mammal Care Center’s Board of Directors. “They see things like that almost as a toy and start playing with it.”
The small yearling — between 1 and 2 years old — had a deep laceration and open wound when he arrived at the center. He was in need of bandages and antibiotics to prevent against infection.
“We never know if an animal is going to make it or not, especially if they’re malnourished,” Becerra said. “There may be underlying conditions we don’t know about, but in this particular case, this guy came back pretty quickly and the wound healed nicely.”
But Freedom has a significant scar dish that could pose restrictions on the sea lion’s ability to move and forage for food, said Lauren Palmer, the center’s veterinarian. So his ultimate prognosis is unclear.
An experimental surgery developed by the center’s veterinarian surgeon, Tammy De Costa Gomez, was considered to try to remove some of that tissue. But it was ruled out as too risky, after the sea lion didn’t stabilize well under anesthesia during a test run.
So as he grows older, that band of scar tissue could remain tight and pose mobility restrictions; but it also could stretch with him as he grows, Becerra said.
“We’re hopeful for the best and (the veterinarians) thought he’d have a good chance for survival,” Becerra said.
Many marine mammals that become entangled in nets die of starvation, infection and a lack of mobility, Becerra said.
While the animals that come in for treatment at the Marine Mammal Care Center aren’t typically named, Becerra said, some are given farewell monikers.
Since this one was released at Royal Palms Beach, in San Pedro, on Tuesday, Nov. 3 — Election Day — “Freedom” seemed appropriate, she said.
“We usually don’t name the animals; we don’t want the staff to get too attached,” Becerra said. “But when we realized we were releasing him on Election Day, we thought we should name him something pertinent.”
Source: Orange County Register