Over the years, many visitors to Newport's Bayfront have observed sea lions with various forms of entanglement in marine debris, typically plastic "packing bands" wrapped tightly around the neck, cutting into the animal's skin, blubber and muscle.
Because entangled animals are generally active and defensive, options for removing debris are very limited. Sea lions will not tolerate close approach and unrestrained anesthesia is deemed too dangerous for the animals since a sea lion injected with drugs by a pole or dart would likely flee to the water only to subsequently drown.
A custom-built capture cage has been deployed at Port Dock 1 to address this problem of sea lion entanglement. The cage is basically a modified floating dock enclosed on four sides by a galvanized steel structure, with sliding doors on two sides. It is designed primarily to serve as an additional haul out area for sea lions to use freely, with its doors locked in the open position so animals can comfortably come and go as they choose. It was fabricated by Mulder Sheet Metal, Inc. Newport, based on designs of cages used by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for the capture of sea lions in the Columbia River.
Once entangled sea lions are observed inside the cage, responders from the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network will then have an opportunity to close the cage doors and confine an affected animal so safe and proper removal of debris can be performed. Confined safely within the cage, an entangled sea lion will be anesthetized and treated by veterinarians. Veterinary medical services will be provided by Animal Medical Care, Newport, with logistical support from the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
Collaborating partners in this project include Animal Medical Care of Newport, the Port of Newport, Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network, Oregon State University Marine Mammal Institute, Oregon Coast Aquarium, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Funding was provided by a grant from the Oregon Animal Health Foundation / Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Marine Mammal Institute, Oregon State University, and NOAA's John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program (which provides support for the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network through the Marine Mammal Institute, OSU).