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Sea lion pup shot in Santa Monica Bay

February 17, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A $5,000 reward is being offered in an effort to find whoever is shooting sea lions in the Santa Monica Bay.The latest victim, a 9-month-old pup, was found paralyzed with a bullet lodged in his spine on Dockweiler State Beach about two weeks ago.

A concerned beachgoer found the sea lion pup and called the Marine Animal Rescue, an organization dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine mammals. Peter Wallerstein of the organization responded to the call and conducted the rescue.

"[It was] a 30-pound sea lion, looked in good shape, body weight was good, responsiveness was a little slow," said Wallerstein. "Then when I walked up to it to get a better evaluation and see if I needed to rescue this animal, he tried to get away by pulling his body, dragging his backend. I knew then that he was in trouble."

The sea lion pup was brought back to the marine care center, but there was nothing the vet could do to help the animal. The sea lion had to be euthanized. Wallerstein says the pup had a bullet embedded in his spine and he wouldn't be able to survive back in the wild.

At least four sea lions have been shot this year in the waters off Los Angeles County. The other victims also did not survive.

Wallerstein says some fishermen believe seals, sea lions and sea birds are a threat to their livelihoods and deliberately hurt or kill the animals.

"It's a brutal killing. These animals aren't really threats to their livelihoods, to the fishermen's livelihoods," said Wallerstein. "How much of a threat is a 30-pound, 9-month-old sea lion to these fishermen? We don't think it's a threat even if it's an adult sea lion. This is a brutal act. A senseless act and it needs to be stopped, and we'll do everything we can to stop it."

It's not just fishermen fed up with sea lions. In recent years, the large marine mammals have climbed abroad boats in Newport Beach to bask in the sun, causing damage.

The Marine Animal Rescue is offering the $5,000 reward and Wallerstein is working with federal authorities to catch the killer or killers.

"We're going to try to infiltrate some boats, we're going to try to get eyes and ears out there to try to find the people who are doing this," said Wallerstein. "We're going to push for prosecution to the fullest extent of the law."

If you have any information or to report a similar incident, you're asked to call the Marine Animal Rescue at 1-800-39-WHALE.

Wallerstein says a few tips have already come in to the rescue center.


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