Rehabilitated sea lion released into wild

February 5, 2010 10:09:53 PM PST
Abagnale, the wayward sea lion that eluded rescuers for weeks has been released back into the Pacific at the beach in front of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

In a delicate dance, Marine Mammal Center staff and volunteers used wooden boards to coax the sea lion out of his cage and into a waiting container before taking him to the beach for his release.

"He's feisty, he's strong, he's ready to go back into the ocean," the Marine Mammal Center's Dr. Bill Van Bonn said.

Abagnale still has cuts on his skin, but the veterinarian says they are superficial and not a threat to his recovery. They wanted to get him back into the sea before he becomes dependent on humans to feed him. During his time at the Marine Mammal Center, Abagnale put on 20 pounds; he had lost weight during his ordeal.

The sea lion first showed up at Pier 39 on New Years Day with fishing line wrapped around his neck and mouth. He resurfaced later that week off Moss Landing. It took several weeks to capture him and take him to Sausalito.

Abagnale was treated for dehydration and other medical problems before he was healthy enough to be released.

"He was a victim of something that was obviously caused by us -- by people," Van Bonn said. "And the more we can get people to understand that marine debris, the trash, the plastics that goes out of our streams, that's on our beaches, really impacts these animals directly."

Abagnale is tagged, so they will able to keep track of him and monitor how he is doing.