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

Greenwood candidates meet at MacArthur Centre

Forum was live-streamed on Facebook, but sound problems quickly set in

Education ministry’s COVID plan could do more for SD51, says teachers’ union president

There have been no confirmed COVID cases two weeks into school year

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

To build or not to build: Grand Forks community centre to go to city, district referendum

Plans to build a community centre have been in the works since 2018

Russell selected as B.C. NDP candidate for Boundary-Similkameen

The director for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary was chosen over Oliver councillor Grice.

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

U.S. Presidential Debate Takeaways: An acrid tone from the opening minute

Here are key takeaways from the first of three scheduled presidential debates before Election Day on Nov. 3

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

Most Read