The marathon efforts of a marine mammal rescue team to save a distressed Steller sea lion on a Nanaimo beach Thursday night were to no avail.
“It wasn’t the outcome we were looking for, but we will take this as a learning opportunity,” Emily Johnson, assistant manager of the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre told Global News.
Johnson’s team was called around 11 a.m. Thursday about the animal, which had become stranded at the high tideline on Invermere Beach after stormy weather.
Steller sea lions are listed as a “species of special concern” by the the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, and while their population has recovered somewhat from historic lows due to culling, they remain close to a “threatened” designation.
A team of five from the rescue centre responded, sedating the sea lion to try and load it into a sling for transport to a waiting vehicle, where emergency crews had also arrived to help.
“The fire department showed up, there was police officers, and it’s like the three different areas were all working together,” witness Natasha Friesen said.
Johnson said the animal was “definitely not acting normal,” and was “dull” and unresponsive.
“This was a very large male Steller sea lion,” she said.
“It was quite a task to get him down the beach to the bottom of the stairs, and then up a significant set of stairs that brought us up to road level — it was a huge undertaking.”
Unfortunately, by the time the team got the creature to their transport vehicle, a process that lasted at least three hours, the sea lion had died.
The sea lion had no obvious signs of injuries, Johnson said, but its remains were sent for X-rays and then for a necropsy to try and determine what happened to it.
Johnson praised the person who found the animal, saying they did exactly the right thing: keep their distance and phone it in.
“Give us a ring first … we want to make sure the animal isn’t just exhibiting some normal behaviour, and we want to make sure the animal does actually need our assistance,” she said.
Anyone who believes they see a marine mammal in distress is urged to call the rescue centre at 604-258-7325.