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Sea lion wanders onto San Diego freeway, miles from ocean

Drivers pulled over and waved oncoming traffic away from the creature as it traversed the lanes and into a center-divider area.

SAN DIEGO — A sea lion that may have lost its bearings or been struck by wanderlust roamed onto state Route 94 in the Stockton area Friday, stopping traffic while concerned motorists, California Highway Patrol officers and SeaWorld personnel rescued the wayward aquatic animal.

The errant sea mammal appeared on the eastbound side of the freeway near SR-15 -- about three miles from San Diego Bay and some eight miles away from the ocean -- shortly after 9:30 a.m., CHP public-affairs Officer Jim Bettencourt said. 

In a statement, SeaWorld shared:

This specific sea lion has been rescued by SeaWorld’s Rescue team before and has a track record of wandering into odd places. In the beginning of November, this sea lion was rescued from Harbor Island Drive near the airport. After about a week of care, the animal was deemed ready and was returned. In December, the same sea lion was seen right along the boardwalk in Mission Beach, near a deli in Mission Bay and on the Navy Base in Point Loma.

Credit: SeaWorld
SeaWorld San Diego’s Rescue Team was contacted this morning by California Highway Patrol (CHP) and several members of the community about a sea lion spotted in the median on the 94 East highway, between Home Avenue and the 15. CHP reported the animal had crossed four lanes on the 94 East and then stopped in the median.

Drivers pulled over and waved oncoming traffic away from the creature as it traversed the lanes and into a center-divider area.

Cellphone video shows two people coaxing the sea lion across the lanes, while using their cars to block traffic behind them.

"These two individuals that were on the freeway trying to free the sea lion, they put their lives at risk in the middle of the freeway, cars going, so they're heroes really," Josefine Jandinger said.

Jandinger came upon the scene while driving on the freeway and recorded cell phone video shared with CBS8.

While the situation had a serious nature given the danger to the animal and to drivers, she adds that it was a bizarre, almost lighthearted situation to come across.

"It's breaking San Diego news," she said. "I mean, I know San Diegans love anything that has to do with animals, and puppies, and sea lions, and I think it's a perfect San Diego story... It's like raining frogs."

The Highway Patrol arrived a short time later and stopped traffic while SeaWorld animal handlers were en route. By the time they got there, the straying sea lion had made its way back across the roadway and taken refuge in an adjacent open area covered by ice plant.

The personnel from the maritime theme park used a net to capture the apparently unscathed sea lion, taking custody of it about 10:30 a.m., according to Bettencourt.

"So, happy ending," the officer said.

RELATED: News 8 Throwback: San Diego reporter Loren Nancarrow and crew sail to Antarctica with SeaWorld scientist in 1988

WATCH RELATED: San Diego beachgoer has close encounter with sea lion (July 2021)

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