In this issue: Tufted Puffin recovery efforts made possible by small group of SeaDoc donors, rehabilitated Steller sea lion released and tracked, successful book launch, huge response for GiveBIG, derelict gear in the news.
The animal was immobilized by remote injection of an anesthetic cocktail. Once it was sedated, the team cut the packing strap loose and reversed the anesthesia, allowing the fully recovered animal to swim away free.Like any complex procedure performed by trained experts, this procedure looks rather straight forward to any onlooker, but is actually the product of years of development by Dr. Marty Haulena and colleagues. It requires a skilled team of boat drivers, biologists, veterinarians and veterinary technicians.
Gaydos and Seattle Aquarium Veterinarian Dr. Lesanna Lahner are working with NOAA Fisheries to import the protocol into Washington and Oregon.
See more photos at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre’s Facebook page.
Did you know that seals, sea lions and other animals put down annular growth rings on their teeth? This means that you can age an animal that has died by counting the growth rings on a sectioned tooth much like you can do for a tree that has been cut down. We were pulling teeth to age some stranded animals as part of our collaborative work with the Whale Museum and San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network and were once again amazed at how large Steller sea lions are. Check out this shot comparing lower canines of an adult harbor seal and a Steller sea lion!
The animal doesn’t die right away. As the seal grows, the strap gets tighter and tighter. Eventually the animal can starve or strangle.
For almost 2 years, SeaDoc and collaborators from the San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network, the Whale Museum, the Vancouver Aquarium, and the Seattle Aquarium have been working with NOAA Fisheries to create a plan for responding to entangled sea lions. Darting a 2,000-pound animal that isn’t feeling well and is precariously perched on rocks near the water is not an easy undertaking. In fact, without the right plan and expertise, it’s fraught with risks for both the animal and the people trying to help it.
Fortunately our collaborators worked hard to come up with a safe protocol, one that has been field tested over a dozen times in Canada under the leadership of the Vancouver Aquarium.
So when an entangled sea lion was spotted last month near the south end of Lopez Island, NOAA gave permission for an intervention. We mobilized an international team with veterinarians from both the Seattle and Vancouver aquariums, and technical staff from the Stranding Network and Whale Museum, with additional law enforcement help from NOAA and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
During the morning slack tide, we found the entangled animal hauled out on the rocks, but weren’t able to dart it successfully. In the afternoon we returned to search again, and were surprised to see a different entangled animal. We were able to dart, recover, and release this animal after determining that the entangling material had broken off, leaving a nasty wound behind.
Most of SeaDoc’s veterinary work is at the level of species or populations, but in this case we’re trying to help individual animals that have been injured by human garbage. It is an animal welfare issue but it also is providing skills that could benefit an endangered species entangled in our trash.
Videos of prior disentanglement responses carried out by the Vancouver Aquarium:
Tissue perforation and penetration by dorsal fin spines of spotted ratfish (Hydrolagus colliei) were responsible for the death of seven harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) in Washington State (USA) between 2006 and 2011. In six animals, necropsy revealed spines or spine parts that had perforated the esophagus or stomach and migrated into vital tissues, resulting in hemothorax, pneumothorax, pleuritis, and peritonitis. In a seventh case, a ratfish spine was recovered from the mouth of a harbor seal euthanized due to clinical symptoms of encephalitis. Gross examination revealed an abscess within the left cerebrum, which was attributed to direct extension of inflammatory infiltrate associated with the ratfish spine. Between 2009 and 2011, spotted ratfish spines were also recovered from the head or neck region of three Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) and one California sea lion (Zalophus californianus). Ratfish-related trauma appears to be a novel mortality factor for harbor seals in Washington State and could be related to increased ratfish abundance and a shifting prey base for harbor seals.