SeaWorld rescues sea lion injured by gaff pole - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

SeaWorld rescues sea lion injured by gaff pole

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WARNING: The above video contains graphic content that may not be appropriate for young or sensitive audiences.

LA JOLLA (CBS 8) - A male sea lion is recovering at SeaWorld after being rescued with a 10 foot gaff pole lodged in his shoulder. It was reported by some good Samaritans Sunday morning in La Jolla.

"He's probably had this in his back for several days," Dr. Todd Schmitt said. 

After receiving several calls, SeaWorld's Senior Veterinarian Dr. Todd Schmitt and his team set out to rescue the 200 pound male.

They recorded the entire scene using a series of small cameras. In this video, you can see rescuers approach the sea lion and quickly throw a net over him. Dr. Schmitt injects a sedative and gets to work.

"Once we got him sedated, then we were able to cut the gaff down and then work it out of his back," Dr. Schmitt said. 

First, they used a saw. Then, Dr. Schmitt and his team worked carefully to remove the metal hook, which was lodged in three-inches deep.

"He responded right away. Once we got the gaff out...of his shoulder...he was relieved. You could tell this was definitely causing some pain," Dr. Schmitt said. 

The sea lion will now be treated at SeaWorld and monitored for at least a week until he can be returned back to the ocean.

As for his injury, Dr. Schmitt says it was most likely caused by a fisherman who used the gaff after the sea lion got too close to its catch.

"When the nets are pulled in, it's like a dinner bell. The sea lions know where the fish can be found, so they know probably to go to the boats," Dr. Schmitt said. 

According to Dr. Schmitt, there has been a rise in human-caused injuries to sea lions.

Sunday's rescue marks the third one Dr. Schmitt has seen with a gaff injury in just the past year and a half. He's also treated nine sea lions with gunshot wounds over that same time period -- two of which were euthanized last week.

"I understand a lot of livelihood may be based around it, but these animals have a right to be there as well, so it is very disturbing when animals are hurt in that process," Dr. Schmitt said. 

Causing harm to sea lions is against the law.
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