An emaciated California sea lion shot with a crossbow was likely suffering for weeks before being rescued near Powell River, says the head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.
Dr. Martin Haulena said the sea lion was likely unable to hunt for food, worsening his condition.
“It’s heart-breaking to find an animal in this state; it’s unacceptable to be harming wildlife like this,” he said. “We’re all very grateful to the community for their incredible efforts during this rescue.”
The older male sea lion, estimated to weigh 250 kilograms, was spotted with “horrific injuries” on a log boom Tuesday by mill workers with Jepson Mobile Booming near Powell River.
A team from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Vancouver Aquarium, with help from community members, rescued the sea lion, which was taken to Vancouver.
The animal has a massive puncture wound and is severely dehydrated and underweight as a result of the bolt. He is being treated with antibiotics, fluids and pain medication to treat the puncture wound. Abnormalities with his eyes suggest in the past he suffered gunshot wounds, said the centre.
The sea lion was named Archie as a tribute to boat operator Archie Kenmuir of Jepson Mobile Booming. The rescue centre said the Jepson team was instrumental in helping to sedate and remove the sea lion from the log booms.
“It was truly an epic rescue,” said Emily Johnson, assistant manager of the rescue centre.
“There is no other way to describe it,” she said. “The co-ordination and community effort to help this animal was amazing.”
Kenmuir manoeuvred the log bundle and rescue team to shore.
Archie is the third sea lion in just over two years to be admitted to the rescue centre as a result of human-inflicted injuries.
A sea lion named Senor Cinco was rescued from Spanish Banks Beach Park in May 2017, while Ukee was rescued from the west coast of Vancouver Island in October 2018. Both had been shot in the head and blinded.
The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Program rescues, rehabilitates, and releases hundreds of distressed marine mammals each year. This year, staff admitted 114 patients, including a hypothermic olive ridely sea turtle named Berni, rescued on Sept. 30 from a Port Alberni inlet.