A disoriented Steller sea lion was rescued by officials recently after wandering the streets of the small Alaskan town of Sitka for four days.
The chief of the Sitka Volunteer Fire Department told the Anchorage Daily News that the endangered animal was first spotted early in the morning of Friday, August 31st, by Eric Radziukinas, a hospital staff member at the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital.
Things we see getting called into work at 2am... Check this out. SeaLion in the road right in front of SEARHC. Said he thought it was a bear at first. Good thing he got it on video, no one would have believed him. Never seen one so far away from the water. He didn’t make it back to the water right away but Fish&Game, NOAA and of course SEARHC security are working on it. 📷📽: Eric Radziukinas #SitkaAlaska #mtedgecumbehospital #searhc #radiologyoncall #lostsealionPosted by Nicole Balovich on Friday, August 31, 2018
From that moment, several crews in Sitka had their hands full as they tried to get the adult male sea lion back into the water. In the afternoon on Monday, September 3rd, attempts were finally successful.
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On Sunday afternoon, the sea lion was hiding in a wooded area, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials. The public was asked to avoid the area near Airport Road to eliminate any additional stress the large crowds could put on the sea lion as well as for their own safety.
NOAA is asking the public to clear the area in Sitka where a male Steller sea lion is in distress, and is hiding in the woods; the incident is drawing onlookers. Please, for your own safety and the well-being of the animal, if you are in the area, leave. Thank you! pic.twitter.com/UosBejhlGm— NOAA Fisheries AK (@NOAAFisheriesAK) September 2, 2018
NOAA Alaska region spokeswoman Julie Speegle released a statement saying the mammal was most probably exhausted, dehydrated and starving. She said the agency's best guess is that the sea lion could not see the ocean and was unable to find his way back on his own. He ended up retreating to the woods after the fire department sprayed him with their fire hose. Speegle said they had him going in the right direction but then he deviated into the woods.
Ultimately, the 1,500-pound Steller sea lion was tranquilized and transported back to the beach using a front loader and flatbed truck. The whole operation took less than an hour and a half. As soon as it woke up, it entered the ocean and swam away. He was last seen catching a fish, according to Speegle.
The Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network the Sitka Fire and Police departments, the Coast Guard and the hospital all worked together to help the mammal get back to where it belongs. NOAA was the point of contact on the project. They attached a satellite tag to the sea creature and plan to keep an eye on him to make sure he does not end up lost again.