by Velena Jones

SACRAMENTO — Marine experts are tracking a sea lion on the Sacramento River and need your help to find it.

Far from the ocean, a California sea lion is lugging some baggage with him along the Sacramento River. The sea lion was spotted near Tower Bridge in Old Sacramento Friday morning.

“We are not sure where that hook is lodged. If it lodged somewhere superficially, like in the cheek, that is a much better prognosis for the animal and we would have less reason to risk a response for a rescue,” said Dave Zahniser, response training and operations manager, Marine Mammal Center.

Zahniser and his response team at Marine Mammal Center is keeping a close eye on a fishing hook that seems to be stuck in the adult sea lion’s face. Averaging around 850 pounds and seven feet long, the sea lion can’t easily be scooped out of the water, Zahniser said.

“These types of responses are complex. [They’re] very large animals in an area that is innately risky. Being around water is risky…trying to contain an animal is risky,” he explained. “We want to make sure when we do decide to go in, we are not increasing the danger to the animal, but we are actually providing a relief from a condition, not adding to the condition that has already occurred.”

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Zahniser said it is not clear if a rescue is necessary. While a response team monitors the animal’s movements, health, and condition to determine their next move, Zahniser said it’s not uncommon to see sea lions this far up the river.

“We think about how far we are from the ocean and it’s not unusual to see adult male sea lions that far away. Food is abundant, they are very comfortable with human activity, the activity that is on the river doesn’t pose a problem,” he said.

It’s not the first time an injured sea lion has been spotted nearby. Sgt. Nevis, a sea lion, was shot in the face back in 2009 by a fisherman in the Sacramento River. The sea lion had to undergo reconstructive face surgery to treat the damage. Luckily, this sea lion has a much better prognosis.

“The body, the health, the robustness of the animal is all very much in his favor,” said Zahniser.

The Marine Mammal Center is hoping people call in to report sitings, so they can send a team out as early as Saturday to determine if a rescue is needed.

You can report sightings by calling 415-289-7325 or visiting their website: