By Donna Furey, Special to the Independent
An unusual patient is recovering at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center: an adult sea lion suffering from great white-shark bite wounds and malnourishment.
No one knows how long the sea lion was swimming in the waters off Emerald Bay before a beachgoer called the center on Wednesday, Jan. 22, to rescue the animal stranded on the rocks.
The slippery footholds made the rescue that much more challenging for the team, led by animal care supervisor Dean Gomersall.
Even so they quickly and successfully captured the injured animal, according to animal care director, Michele Hunter.
The team, who get naming rights, safely transported Bruce back to the center’s Laguna Canyon rehabilitation center for evaluation and treatment. “As soon as Bruce arrived, I could see huge bite wounds underneath his right front flipper and left chest area. You could tell from the size and pattern of the marks, that it points to a great white,” Hunter said.
“It’s not often that we see animals inflicted with severe bite wounds, and when we do, it’s not
always a happy ending. But so far, so good! Bruce is certainly proving to be almighty!”
Bruce could have been attacked thousands of miles from Orange County and there is no way to guess where he may have encountered the shark, said the center’s development director, Melissa Sciacca.
The animal was severely malnourished, probably unable to hunt due to his wounds,” she said. “Sea lions will typically come ashore when they’re exhausted or injured to rest and try to recuperate,” she added.
In the two weeks under the center’s care, Bruce has progressed well and is expected to be returned to the ocean after his injuries have sufficiently healed and staff veterinarian Dr. Richard Evans approves his release.
“Bruce has certainly beaten the odds, and we look forward to sending him home again for a second chance at life,” said Executive Director Keith Matassa.”We encourage the community to come visit us and see this remarkable animal.”