Sea lion found shot on Vancouver beach dies

A young sea lion that was found on Vancouver’s Kitsilano beach with a gunshot wound in her head in March has died, according to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre (MMR).

Despite its team’s effort to help the juvenile female sea lion dubbed Pretzel, the MMR says her injuries were too severe and she was unable to eat on her own, so the decision was made to euthanize her last Friday.

Pretzel was brought to the MMR on March 18, after being found on the beach in critical condition. At the time, the MMR said she was underweight, lethargic and remains weak.

“We were tube feeding her three times a day, throughout the day in the evening, and we were seeing some improvements. But the ability to be able to actually grasp fish and swallow them was just something that she was not able to do with the injuries that she sustained,” MMR manager Lindsaye Akhurst said. “So we did make the unfortunate decision to euthanize her last week, after obviously putting in a lot of time with our volunteers and staff.”

Akhurst says the team ran as many tests as they could, including a CT scan, and other imaging to see whether there was any way to save the animal. At the time of her rescue, MMR told CityNews one of the sea lion’s eyes was not working.

“Always a difficult decision and we’re very fortunate to work with a great group of people and you know, we discussed it for quite a while to ensure that she was still maintaining while she was here and she was comfortable.”

“The team at the rescue centre are proud that up to 80 percent of the animals rescued are returned to their natural habitat. Unfortunately, it is not possible to restore health to every animal,” MMR wrote in a statement. “The Aquarium does provide homes for those animals who are deemed non-releasable.”

Related: Sea lion found shot on Kitsilano beach

MMR has seen an increase in human impacts and disturbances on marine mammals on the B.C. coastline over the past few years, Akhurst says.

With harbour seal pupping season right around the corner, she is reminding people not to approach wildlife or move babies and call MMR at 604-258-7325 or Department of Fisheries and Oceans at 1-800-465-4336 if they believe an animal is in distress.

“Our job is to obviously to respond to some of these animals that are in need of care, but a lot of times to you know when you’re seeing a seal pup on the beach, it could just be a natural thing that the mom’s just gone out by not to forage, look for some food, and left the pup on the beach,” she said, adding there are certain diseases that could be passed from animals to humans or the sea creature could hurt people as it defends itself.

Akhurst says MMR is preparing to receive upwards of 150 habour seal pups between June and September.

With files from Robyn Crawford

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