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Federal Authorities Investigate Two Sea Lions Shot Near La Jolla

SeaWorld San Diego found two sea lions in La Jolla in the past few weeks that were shot with guns, one in the face at close range.

NOAA Fisheries Service confirmed Friday that it is investigating reports of two sea lions shot and found in La Jolla. If convicted, the responsible party could be punished with a $100,000 fine and 1 year in jail, or both. 

Patch reported Thursday that SeaWorld San Diego is caring for an adult male sea lion—now named Buck—that was rescued from a La Jolla beach near the Cove on Oct. 5. The 275-pound sea lion had been shot in the face at close range.

“The person that shot him was definitely intending to kill him,” SeaWorld Senior Animal Care Specialist Heather Ruce said.

Dr. Hendrik Nollens, a veterinarian at SeaWorld, said another sea lion was found with gun shot wounds to its body a few weeks back. Unfortunately, that sea lion passed away due to other health complications.

Buck is reportedly doing well, despite losing his right eye. He is eating and taking all of his antibacterial medications. SeaWorld said it will release Buck when his wounds have healed enough to ward off risk of infections in the wild.

Read more about Buck here: Sea Lion Shot in Head at Close Range Found in La Jolla

NOAA Fisheries Office of Law Enforcement investigates crimes under the Marine Mammal Protection Act that protects marine mammals, including sea lions, seals and dolphins. The act protects these mammals from harassment, hunting, capturing and killing or the attempt to do so. 

Unfortunately, it is difficult to investigate these incidents. In 2011, NOAA Fisheries opened 470 Marine Mammal Protection Act cases.

"All you have is the animal... Unless you have witnesses or information then it is really difficult to find who did this," said Jim Milbury with NOAA Fisheries Southwest Regional Office in Long Beach.

Milbury said it receives three to five complaints of marine mammal shootings a year off San Diego. 

If you witness a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, please call the NOAA Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964.

Please keep your distance from distressed or injuries marine mammals. If you see a distress or injured marine mammal call 1-800-541-SEAL or notify nearby lifeguards or police.

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