Earlier this year, in January, we introduced and welcomed our seventh rescued California sea lion to the Georgia Aquarium family. This young sea lion was initially found malnourished, injured, and emaciated on the coast of California and stranded a total of four times – each time needing assistance from local stranding centers. He made his way from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in California to Atlanta after his fourth stranding and being deemed non-releasable by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Over the last two months, our animal care and veterinary teams have been learning more about him and interacting on a daily basis. After long deliberation, the sea lion care team chose a name: Hunter. His name is a tribute to the area in which he was rescued from in California – Huntington Beach. His name hopefully will remind others of the unfortunate mass stranding events off California coasts and the plights that sea lions face in the ocean.
Like many rescued sea lions, it was discovered that Hunter had sustained several injuries in the ocean – including a propeller wound, fish hooks stuck in his mouth, and noticeable damage to his left eye.
When Hunter arrived at Georgia Aquarium, his care team and veterinary staff noticed a whiteness in his left eye and irregular movement. As the team continues to train and become comfortable with Hunter, they have noticed he shows severely limited vision on his left side. While his injuries have healed with the help of his care teams at the multiple stranding centers he visited, his eye issue still remains and is under routine care and monitoring.
Hunter continues to be assessed by Georgia Aquarium veterinary staff, as well as a specialty animal ophthalmologist. Eye damage and injury can impact a sea lion’s survival in the ocean, and can also give them a disadvantage when catching prey or protecting themselves from predators. Ultimately, due to Hunter’s non-releasable status, all the experts that care for him ensure that he has a safe home and access to the best healthcare.
Hunter has been at Georgia Aquarium for just over two months. He continues to become familiar with his new home and learn basic behaviors to aid in his every day care with our animal and veterinary teams. He is already showing off his uniqueness, including his noticeable kinked whiskers. He is very social, and has been introduced to several other sea lions at Georgia Aquarium.
Following multiple strandings and subsequent releases back into the ocean, Hunter needed a forever home. In his short time at Georgia Aquarium, he has been learning, thriving, and growing. Hunter not only has a namesake of his multiple rescues, but also his second chance at life.