Sea lion swims back to Delta after getting stranded in Vacaville creek pipe

VACAVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- Marine Mammal Center responders said a male sea lion that got stranded in a drainage pipe inside a Vacaville creek Tuesday has successfully made its way back into one of the main waterway channels of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

The sea lion emerged from the drainage pipe Wednesday morning and began its journey east through a series of agricultural canals back to the Delta. "It's the best possible outcome that this animal was able to make his way back out toward the Delta on his own and has resumed normal hunting behavior," Marine Mammal Center staff veterinarian Cara Field, M.D., said. "We were prepared to rescue him, but the fact that he was swimming with such purpose and appeared comfortable in navigating his way back, gives us confidence he'll be just fine."

Center experts believe it's likely the foraging sea lion will eventually take a southwest path back toward San Francisco Bay.

That's good news for Marine Mammal and Animal Control officials who thought they might have to intervene and rescue the sea lion.

ABC7 News has been tracking the sea lion since he was found inside the Vacaville canal, at least 25 miles away from the bay.

WATCH VIDEO: Sea lion gets trapped inside Vacaville creek
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A 6-foot long sea lion was spotted in a canal near Leisure Town Road in Vacaville. The Marine Mammal Institute is handling the rescue efforts.

The sea lion that has been named Leisure and many Vacaville residents have been enjoying watching him inside the creek. "It was really neat to see and come out and have a little field trip," Kelly Ellis said.

Leisure was last seen Tuesday entering a concrete storm drain before swimming out of it it a day later. "He spent what appears to be an entire night in the culvert, came out this morning and just started heading back to the ocean," Marine Mammal Center Rescue and Response Manager Dave Zahniser said.

So, the huge male sea lion swam with the current and onlookers followed him along the way.

Animal Control and Marine Mammal officials made sure he safely moved through the canal. "We basically wanted to keep it going out to the ocean just in case it decided to take a turn, or go up the canal. We were basically there to create a diversion and hopefully scare it the other way," Phillip Vieira said.

"I think that's great, just let him do his own thing," Kelly Ellissherinian said.

The marine mammal took his time and even stopped for a big lunch. "They're called sea dogs, they're very much like dogs, they're playful and curious, and they play with their food," Zahniser said.

Scientists say this type of behavior is a good sign. "We got to be apart of this history making moment, we have a lot of things not as happy in the news that is not as happy and this was a great opportunity to be happy," Traci Ellissherinanian said.

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On his terms, the most famous sea lion in Vacaville decided it was time to go back to a more familiar place in the bay.

Any time a member of the public sees a marine mammal that appears to be suffering or is in an odd location they should call The Marine Mammal Center's 24-hour hotline at 415-289-SEAL (7325) to report the animal. Individuals should always keep themselves and their dogs a safe distance of at least 50 feet from marine mammals.
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