Sitka sea lion finds its way back to ocean
A sea lion in Sitka has made his way back into the ocean after being stranded on land since Friday.
Crews in Sitka have had their hands full the past few days as they tried to get the adult male sea lion back into the water. On Monday afternoon, attempts were finally successful.
NOAA Alaska region spokeswoman Julie Speegle said the 1,500-pound stellar sea lion was tranquilized and transported back into the ocean using a front loader and flatbed truck. The operation started at 1 p.m. and took about an hour and a half to complete.
The team transported the sea lion back to the beach. Upon waking, the sea lion entered the ocean and swam away. Speegle said he was last seen catching a fish.
The Sitka Fire Department says it's had to control crowds around the sea lion which has spent the last three days on Japonski Island near the Sitka Airport.
On Sunday afternoon, NOAA Fisheries AK took to Twitter asking the public to steer clear from the area as where the male sea lion is hiding out.
Fire officials say this is the first time they've seen anything like this.
"This is my first sea lion in town, yes," said Craig Warren, Sitka Fire Department's senior engineer. "I have not seen any of this before, I've been here 27 years."
Speegle said NOAA first learned about the sea lion roaming through town around 3 a.m. She said the agency's best guess is that the sea lion couldn't see the ocean and that's why he couldn't find his way back on his own.
Eric Radziukinas, a hospital staff member at the Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, captured the sea lion trying to find his way that morning.
Speegle said the sea lion was about a quarter of a mile from the ocean when he got lost. He ended up retreating to the woods after the fire department sprayed him with the fire hose. Speegle said they had him going in the right direction but then he veered off into the woods.
Help came from the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Sitka Fire and Police, Coast Guard and the hospital. NOAA was the point of contact on the project. NOAA attached a satellite tag to him and plan to monitor to make sure he doesn't lose his way again.
Anyone who may encounter a stranded marine mammal is asked to contact the Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 877-925-7773.
Scott Jensen contributed to this story.
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