Monday, November 14, 2011

Elephant seal rescued from plastic

Marine Mammal Center vounteers were able to remove a severely embedded plastic strip from a young elephant seal's neck last week. Friends of the Elephant Seal docent Joan Crowder took these photos of the rescue. Additional photos are posted on The Marine Mammal Center's site.

Every year, countless numbers of marine mammals find themselves entangled in ocean trash, all thanks to human negligence. On November 10, a large 700 lb. elephant seal was spotted at Piedras Blancas viewpoint with a green packing strap wrapped tightly around his neck. Many entangled animals are initially strong enough to escape rescue attempts and because they continue to grow, their entanglements become even tighter. In many cases, these animals die as a result of the entanglement restricting their ability to swallow or hunt effectively. As you can imagine, it can be a very slow and painful death.

Fortunately for "Green Tie," as he was nicknamed, his rescuers from The Marine Mammal Center were able to help him before it was too late!

Lisa Harper Henderson, site manager and rescuer for The Marine Mammal Center’s San Luis Obispo operations, gave this account:

"State Park rangers notified us on 11/8 that this big male elephant seal was on the beach in San Simeon and had a nasty entanglement. We knew low tide would be our best chance of getting him before he made a break for the water, and that low tide was to occur in the late afternoon on 11/10. A volunteer went back to the location on the 10th to see if the animal was still there. He was, so veterinary intern Dr. Michelle Barbieri headed down from Sausalito to meet us and make a plan of exactly how we would approach this big animal and safely capture and restrain him. We estimated him to be just over 700 lb. – the biggest animal we’ve responded to so far his year! "

It was quite the challenge to get the rescue net over this animal! After he was in it, he managed to escape through an opening and almost made his way back to the water. Fortunately, we were able to get to him before that happened and get him back into the net. Once secured, Dr. Barbieri sedated him, and in a few minutes was able to cut away the entanglement. She then thoroughly cleaned the wound and saw that new skin was already growing over the wound - a good sign of recovery! We put a flipper tag on him (on the left rear flipper since he was a male,) took a blood sample, and named him "Green Tie" after the green plastic packaging strap he had been entangled in. About 20 minutes or so after he was sedated, Green Tie woke up and went back into the water, lounging in the shallows nearby. He will be sporting a scar around his neck for his lifetime, but at least he now has a second chance at life, entanglement-free!"

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