Steller Sea Lion Spotted Entangled in Marine Debris

Steller sea lions in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters/Flickr

Steller sea lions in the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters/Flickr

Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Community members have been reporting sightings of a Steller sea lion with a rope constricting its neck. It appears to have gotten entangled in marine debris.

Bree Witteveen, a mammal specialist with the Kodiak Seafood and Marine Science Center, says they’ve been receiving those calls for over a month, but they haven’t collected enough information from those reports to conduct a rescue operation.

“What we would be looking for in order to launch any sort of effort to try to cut this entanglement around the animal’s neck would be reliable and consistent reports that the animal’s in the same place day in and day out, ‘cause I’m sure most people can imagine that this sort of a thing would take a lot of personnel and a lot of time and money, and so we need to make sure the animal is gonna be able to be found in a place that’s accessible.”

Witteveen says a rescue operation would also be more complex than just finding the sea lion and removing the rope.

“And, unfortunately, in most circumstances, it’s not something that we can respond to simply because of the nature of marine mammals. Once you try to anesthetize it or tranquilize it, you run the risk of them drowning. So, it’s usually a pretty desperate situation when we try to go that route.”

Lately, Witteveen says, most callers have spotted the animal on a St. Paul Harbor float with a number of other sea lions. However, they need more reports on the sea lion’s location day-to-day in order to help it. Witteveen asks that community members call the Marine Mammal Stranding Hotline if they spot the animal. That number is 1 877 925 7773.

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