NEWPORT — The cage has been set, but no luck yet.
As of early Tuesday afternoon, officials at the Marine Mammal Stranding Network hadn’t yet captured or treated a male sea lion with what appears to be fishing line tangled in circles around his neck.
The animal was first spotted weeks ago by concerned residents of the area, and despite the worries from many of the sea lion’s well-wishers, he hasn’t gotten the help he needs just yet — and that help may be difficult to come by.
“I don’t know how he got tangled up in it, but I suppose it’s easy to get tangled in,” said Aaron Bretz, operations director for the Port of Newport. “Their movements can make it chafe really badly.”
While port officials aren’t the lead handlers of the rescue attempt to help the sea lion, Bretz and others at the port worked with employees of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network last week to set up a large cage on the Bayfront that will hopefully capture the sea lion so the fishing line can be removed. The cage was set up last week, and although the sea lion in question has been hanging around with other sea lions in the cage’s vicinity, he hasn’t gotten in there yet himself.
“He continues to be active, coming and going from the docks freely and seemingly for days at a time,” said Jim Rice, stranding coordinator for the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. “He appears to be doing well despite the wound around his neck.”
Since the wooden platforms on one dock in the Bayfront provide a popular hangout spot for local sea lions, the cage, which provides another platform for the sea lions to lay on, seems to be a big hit with the sea lions here.
Multiple sea lions have been spotted in the last few days hanging out on the platform in the cage, but the sea lion the cage was set up for doesn’t seem to be interested thus far. Getting in the cage and giving wildlife officials a chance to isolate him might be his only chance for getting the fishing line untangled from around his neck, since other options are risky for both the sea lion and humans.
“Unfortunately, sea lions flee into the water when they are approached and they can easily drown when sedated with drugs,” Rice said in a March 20 email. “So our options for response are limited.”
The network set up a live feed online for those interested in the sea lion to monitor the cage. Go to http://webcam.oregonstate.edu/sealion and click on the Sea Lion Webcam to watch.