Sea lions in Cowichan Bay. (Cheryl Trudell photo)

UPDATE: Don’t approach entangled sea lion in Cowichan Bay officials warn, you could scare it away

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has received a report from a member of the public urging them to attend to a sea lion that looks like it’s been caught up in some type of rope.

The animal was seen on Friday by a crabber.

On Monday a DFO crew was in Cowichan Bay to investigate.

“We will continue to monitor the animal to determine if it’s body condition is deteriorating,” said DFO spokesperson Lara Sloan.

“DFO is a coordinating member of the B.C. Marine Mammal Response Network,” Sloan explained. “Any action in response to a marine mammal in distress is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.”

Sloan said marine debris is a “significant problem” for marine wildlife. “The public can help by cutting packing material, banding, rope and other looped material prior to disposing of it to help prevent marine mammal entanglements,” she said. “These materials should not be disposed of in the marine environment.”

The Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue manager Lindsaye Akhurst said her group has fielded a lot of calls about the sea lion.

“We are assembling a team and working with DFO to come over sometime in the next few days,” Akhurst said.

Communications manager for the VAMMR Deana Lancaster also said it’s vital that people not approach the animal and try to cut the entanglement from its neck, as they are likely to make the situation worse rather than better.

“These are complicated rescues; to do it safely and successfully the sea lion must be temporarily immobilized before we can remove the gear. Our head veterinarian, Dr. Martin Haulena, developed this protocol and technique, and is currently the only person in Canada able to dart and disentangle these animals, with specialized equipment and support from trained personnel.

“We have also been alerted to attempts by members of the public to approach the sea lion and cut the entanglement free with scissors. We must emphasize that these rescues should not be attempted by members of the public. Wild animals, even if they appear weak or injured, will react aggressively in defence if they feel threatened. As well, any disturbance can cause the animal to get spooked and flee and not return, which would put it beyond the reach of responders. Unfortunately, this animal has not been sighted today, which might be a result of being approached.”

DFO encourages people to report all marine mammals in distress to 1-800-465-4336.



sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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