Sea Lion shot in head near Ucluelet passes away at Vancouver Aquarium

Oct 26 2018, 10:21 pm

A Steller Sea Lion that was shot in the head off the coast of Vancouver Island, near the town of Ucluelet and was brought to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre two weeks ago, has now passed away.

On Friday, the rescue centre announced that after two weeks of critical care, the decision was made to humanely euthanize the animal.

“He wasn’t responding to treatment, and his condition had taken a significant downturn in the last two days,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium.

“At this point we had to evaluate his quality of life,” Haulena added. “Although we are disappointed we couldn’t return him to full health, we are glad we could end his suffering and make his final days more comfortable.”

Even severely emaciated, Ukee was the biggest animal ever admitted to the Rescue Centre; Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) are the world’s largest sea lion, with adult males reaching lengths of three metres and weighing up to 800 kilograms. Under the Species at Risk Act, they are a Species of Special Concern in BC.

A team of personnel from the Rescue Centre, together with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Parks Canada, and local volunteers, to rescue him. Once back at the Centre in the Port of Vancouver, the veterinary team confirmed through diagnostics he had been shot in the head, was blind because of his injuries, and had likely been suffering for several weeks.

Second sea lion shot

Ukee is the second sea lion admitted to the Rescue Centre with gunshot wounds in a year and a half. In May 2017, Senor Cinco, an adult male California sea lion, was rescued from Spanish Banks beach in Vancouver.

He’d been blinded and his teeth broken by multiple gunshots; unable to forage and feed himself, he was severely emaciated.

After a year of rehabilitation at the Rescue Centre, Senor Cinco was deemed non-releasable by DFO and moved to his long-term home at the Vancouver Aquarium.

“This is clearly a serious animal welfare issue,” said Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at Vancouver Aquarium. “It is unacceptable to shoot sea lions. Based on his body condition, this individual has been suffering for many weeks.”

Haulena said members of the public who called in to report the animal did the right thing.

“Sea lions are large, wild animals and can be unpredictable.”

If you see a marine mammal that you believe is in distress: stay back, keep people and pets away, call the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-7325, or the DFO hotline at 1-800-465-4336.

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Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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