Race against time to rescue sea lion with band embedded in its neck
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says it will launch a rescue of a sea lion with what appears to be a packing strap deeply embedded in its neck in Cowichan Bay.
Hundreds of the marine mammals have made a home on commercial fishing docks in the community in recent weeks, following the flow of chum salmon from the Cowichan and Koksilah rivers.
The DFO was contacted by locals who believed the sea lion was in distress.
It has been monitoring the animal's condition for a few days and plans to tranquilize it to remove the potentially fatal band.
"It appears to be a packing band that it has around its neck, and those can be lethal," said DFO officer Paul Cottrell. "We're looking at whether we may be able to get out and hopefully successfully dart this animal and remove this packing band, because it will be lethal, and it's really a slow, inhumane death."
Residents and visitors to the area were disturbed by the idea of the sea lion suffering for an undetermined amount of time.
"The thing that confuses me is fisheries or whoever they reported it to said they were going to monitor it and see if it gets any worse," said Rick Amodeo. "I don't know, rope around its neck? How does it get worse?"
The DFO says it rescues several animals per year afflicted by similar choking.
It plans to try darting the sea lion and removing the deadly threat later this week, depending on weather.
"It takes quite an effort to get all of these experts and teams together to go out and do this," said Cottrell.
The sea lion is one of hundreds that have caused quite a stir in the seaside community with their loud barks and belches at all hours of the day.
The sound has become so loud that a nearby hotel has handed out earplugs to its guest.
Tourists haven't been too put off by the sea lions, though, with many saying they've travelled to the area just to get a glimpse of the massive marine mammals.