A Marine Mammal Rescue Centre veterinarian removes a plastic packing band from the neck of a Stellar’s sea lion at the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve on Sept. 10. (Courtesy of Mara Radawetz)

Plastic band removed from neck of Greater Victoria sea lion

Entanglement injuries in seals and sea lions a regular occurrence at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve

A sea lion trapped in human garbage has a second chance at life thanks to the sharp eye of a lighthouse-dwelling ‘ecoguardian’ at Race Rocks Ecological Reserve near Metchosin.

Mara Radawetz and Kai Westby, who live in the island’s lighthouse tower and monitor the reserve on behalf of Pearson College, called in back-up support when Radawetz spotted a California sea lion with a plastic packing band tightly bound around its neck on Sept. 1.

Over the days that followed, the duo spotted the animal again and watched it expressing clear discomfort as a result of the appendage.

“We could see that it was suffering, he would continually scratch at the infected area on his neck,” Westby said. “It had cut through his skin and created a kind of swollen, wet wound.”

The Marine Mammal Rescue Centre (MMRC), assisted by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, responded to the call for help, but it would be a few days before the rescue could arrive by boat.

Fortunately, the rescue team arrived Sept. 10 and Radawetz was able to again spot the injured sea lion using a high-powered magnification lens from the top of the lighthouse, where the duo does a daily count of the island’s furry, feathered and blubbery visitors, which typically number in the thousands.

READ ALSO: Sooke Whale Watching spots a huge gathering of whales

“Being able to have that eye in the sky was instrumental in being able to successfully help this animal,” Westby said.

With a bird’s eye view, the pair guided MMRC veterinarian Martin Haulena to an area where he could prepare a dart gun with a tranquillizer. Rescue staff aided from the water and land, watching as Haulena crawled over the rocks and got into position, successfully tranquillizing the sea lion.

In addition to removing the plastic band, the vet installed a tracking device and took a blood sample.

A sea lion that had a plastic band removed from its neck at the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve wakes up from sedation.(Courtesy of Mara Radawetz)

Radawetz and Westby said they see a sea lion or harbour seal with an injury due to human impact roughly once a week – and many of those animals don’t have a happy ending.

“We often see not only plastic entanglements but fishing line injuries on the sea lions and the harbour seals,” Radwetz said. The pair said they often see pinnipeds – seals, sea lions and walruses – that have swallowed a fish still on a fishing line, a meal that can cost the animal its life.

“It’s not always possible for us to help them,” Radawetz said.

While one lucky sea lion was able to swim free, Westby and Radawetz hope the incident resonates with people.

Westby added, “I really hope by sharing some of what we see here we can remind people that their actions have impacts and we are seeing those impacts here in Race Rock.”

In September 2019, a sea lion with almost identical injuries was rescued at the Race Rock Ecological Reserve. That animal had a plastic band embedded roughly two inches into its neck.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

READ ALSO: Steller sea lion with plastic around neck rescued on Vancouver Island


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: nina.grossman@blackpress.ca. Follow us on Instagram.
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

animal welfareMetchosinVictoria

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Okanagan whisky lottery adds new twists

Winners of Okanagan Spirits’ Laird of Fintry lottery announced in four batches beginning Sept. 28

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

United Way celebrates seven decades of impact in Southern Interior

Organization sees issues with poverty, mental health and addictions, heighten during the pandemic

Primary Care Networks coming for Okanagan Nation Alliance communities

New partnerships will provide Syilx members with better, culturally-safe primary care

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Three arrested after Keremeos shooting that severely injured one man

The victim was transported by air ambulance to a regional hospital

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

UPDATE: One dead after motorcycle collision on Highway 97 near Peachland

The collision closed Highway 97 off-and-on throughout Sunday afternoon

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

West Kelowna Warriors complete sweep of Vernon Vipers

Warriors edge Snakes 2-1 as Okanagan Cup BCHL exhibition tournament begins

Most Read