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'Stumps me every time': B.C. rescue centre sees uptick in animals being shot in the head

"I don't know why or how this could happen," says the manager of the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, in response to a sea lion shot in the head.

A sea lion that was shot in the head is still alive, but in critical condition, after being found on Kitsilano Beach.

Staff from the Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre rushed the sea lion — named Pretzel — to their facility for X-rays and was able to confirm fragments of a bullet shell in her head. 

"It stumps be every time we get an animal in that has these injuries. I don’t know why or how this could happen,” says Lindsaye Akhurst, the centre's manager.

"These cases are unfortunately becoming more and more common and more animals are coming in with these similar injuries,” she tells Glacier Media. "We seem to get a few of these cases each year... it has increased over the last few years."

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is aware of the injured sea lion and confirms the Whale Protection Unit is investigating the incident. 

"DFO reminds fishers and the public that it is illegal to disturb or harm marine mammals by any means,” says a spokesperson with DFO, pointing to Section 7 of the Marine Mammal Regulations.

"Any time there are wounds to a marine mammal, they are treated as potential serious violations; however, it’s often difficult to pursue charges without a witness or further evidence,” says the spokesperson. 

Pretzel is being taken care of by the team at the rescue centre. But it's not clear if she'll survive. 

"Our focus is stabilization and pain control. She’s in there and we are able to get her her medications and she’s on some fluids right now,” Akhurst says.

For Akhurst, the "biggest takeaway" from Pretzel's case is to contact her team or DFO right away if you see an animal in a similar situation.

"We can get to them quicker than if we didn’t know about them in the first place.”

The Marine Mammal Rescue Centre can be reached by calling 604-258-SEAL. The phone number for Fisheries and Oceans Canada is 1-800-465-4336.