The one-hour, first-of-its-kind surgery on Sgt. Nevis, named after Mike Nevis, the Yolo County animal control services officer who helped rescue him, was performed at the Vet Clinic of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo by Dr. Praful Ramenini.
Ramenini, a reconstructive surgeon specializing in human face reconstruction, donated his services. He has a practice in Washington D.C.
Ramenini loosened the skin just above the open crater-like wound visible under the 650-pound sea lion's eyes and stretched it over the open wound. Dr. Diana Proctor and Dr. Nancy Andersson, Six Flags Discovery Kingdom's veterinarians, and Dr. Bill Van Bonn, staff veterinarian from the Marine Mammal Center, assisted Dr. Ramenini.
Sgt. Nevis will spend three or four days in "dry recovery" before he returns to the water at Seal Cove in Sis Flags Discovery Kingdom.
Sgt. Nevis was rescued from the Sacramento River in Knights Landing on Dec. 5. He was shot twice in the face by a fisherman in November.
The alleged shooter, a North Highlands resident, is scheduled to appear on animal cruelty charges in Sutter County Superior Court on Oct. 19.
The sea lion eluded rescuers along areas of the Sacramento River several times before he was captured.
Jim Oswald, a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, said Sgt. Nevis weighed 350 pounds when he arrived at the Sausalito mammal center's hospital.
The deep bullet wounds on either side of his nose were flushed, and he was given antibiotics and nourished, Oswald said.
Because of the injuries, the male sea lion had to modify his breathing and was unable to dive or put his head under water, said Michael Muraco, director of care at the Marine Mammal Center.
Sgt. Nevis would always be at risk of infection, Muraco said, and the Marine Mammal Center felt obligated to perform the surgery because "it was human interference that changed this animal's life forever," he said.
Sgt. Nevis also was likely to return to areas where he could be shot again, the Marine Mammal Center said. His home became Seal Cove in May.
The Marine mammal Center rescued and treated 18 mammals that were shot with bullets or pellets last year, Dr. Van Bonn said.
"We're very grateful for everyone's help in making this surgery a success and wish Sgt. Nevis well as he recovers," Van Bonn said.