A sea lion trapped in what appears to be fishing line near Fanny Bay on Vancouver Island will have to wait a little longer to be rescued.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says an expert team and resources required to set the animal free should be ready to go by next week, but there is no guarantee that the disentanglement will be successful.
Story continues below
The sea lion that has been named Kiyo by local residents has its neck wrapped up twice by what appears to be fishing line that is now growing into his skin.
Wildlife photographer Netonia Chatelaine has been documenting Kiyo’s struggle for the last two weeks and says she is concerned about his well-being.
“As I keep taking photos, I can see [the line] is growing into his skin now, and it is pretty heart-wrenching to see. [He] is screaming for help, and we are his only voice.”
But, Lisa Spaven, marine mammal research technician with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, says Kiyo appears to be in good condition.
“Although it is entangled and has probably been this way for a year or more, its wound is not infected. It appears to leave the area to feed. It is alert from time to time,” says Spaven. “These are all good signs that it is not in dire straits yet.”
DFO has been in consultation with marine mammal rescue at the Vancouver Aquarium and their veterinary staff.
“We have been working to devise a plan,” says Spaven. “This is a very precarious situation in that the animal is not in an ideal location for disentanglement. We are making sure that we’ve got all of our ducks in a row, so that we can have the most successful effort possible.”
She says to remove the line, they would have to tranquilize Kiyo, who may drown if the tranquilization cocktail is not exactly right.
“When these animals get spooked, they jump in the water. That is their first instinct. Once they are in the water, recovering an animal this large is very challenging.”
Another challenge in helping Kiyo is assembling a team with enough expertise to attempt the rescue.
Spaven says DFO has not done a lot of disentanglements of sea lions here in B.C. because of lack of experience.
“Disentanglement is not a perfect science and we are always trying to tweak our technique. We do not want to kill an animal in our attempt to save it. Because [Kiyo] is not at death’s door, we have some time to make sure we are doing the right thing.”
Spaven says it is very easy for marine mammals to get entangled in all sorts of debris.
“Best thing people can do is, if they see debris in the water or on the beach, to pick it up. And if it is too big to pick up, certainly report it.”