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A juvenile Steller sea lion remains in critical condition at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, after being found on a Vancouver beach with a gunshot wound on Friday.
The team was called to an area near Kitsilano Beach Friday morning after a member of the public saw the animal in distress.
“She was in really, really poor condition, didn’t want to open her eyes, quite skinny, poor mentation, very, very lethargic, very weak,” aquarium head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena said.
The sea lion, who Haulena says is about three years old and severely underweight, was sedated and taken to the rescue centre for treatment, where X-rays revealed she had been shot in the head.
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Haulena said one of her eyes was destroyed and staff worried her central nervous system could also be damaged.
“This is a really critical animal with a very, very poor prognosis right now, we’re hoping the pain meds and the antibiotic fluids have some effect to stabilize her over the next few days,” Haulena said, adding they hoped to do a more in-depth examination next week depending on how she is doing.
Shootings involving sea lions and harbour seals are, unfortunately, not uncommon in British Columbia, Haulena said. The rescue centre treats an average of five or six pinnipeds for bullet or shotgun wounds.
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He said some people appear to like shooting them for “no particular reason,” while others “may perceive the pinnipeds seals or sea lions as competition for fish resources and are trying to take matters into their own hands.”
“The big problem here is that the gun doesn’t kill the animal — it leads to a whole lot of suffering, a lot of the animals have permanent visual deficits because of that or are blind or at least don’t have enough vision to be able to be released,” he said.
“So we do have a few of those animals living at the aquarium that has offered a home for animals that can’t be released.”
Haulena praised the efforts of the bystander who called the animal in, along with the work of the rescue team and Fisheries and Oceans Canada who supported the effort.
Anyone who sees a marine mammal they believe is in distress should avoid approaching it and call the rescue centre’s hotline at 604-258-SEAL.
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