The chances of saving an injured sea lion in Crescent City Harbor are growing slimmer as rescue attempts have failed to capture the mammal who has languished for more than six weeks on the docks and sidewalk next to the Chart Room restaurant.
Volunteers from the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center have kept a daily vigil for the sea lion suffering from a piece of fishing rope wrapped around its neck that has slowly been digging through layers of muscle tissue.
"He's a real down and out guy," said Dr. Dennis Wood, a local veterinarian and founder and director of the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center. "We really need to rescue him soon."
After spotting the sea lion out of the water last week, and again on Wednesday, the Del Norte County Sheriff's Office and the U.S. Coast Guard were mobilized to assist Wood and Marine Mammal Center volunteers in an attempt to snare him with a net - to no avail.
"He's progressively more lethargic," said Wood, "but it's a tough area to capture the animal," especially when surrounded by "800-pound sentries."
If captured soon, Wood said the sea lion "probably could still make it at this point, but the longer it goes on, the greater chance he'll have septic injury to his other organs."
He said using a tranquilizer gun has "huge risks" because the sea lion could drown if he escaped back into the water after being shot. Wood recalled a previous rescue attempt where a tranquilizer gun was used in trying to capture a sea lion with an arrow stuck in its side.
"The drug doesn't take effect fast enough," he said. "The sea lion got back in the water and that was the last they ever saw of him.
"This guy's pretty tranquil, which makes him easier to get to," said Wood, but "we have all those monsters to worry about, and they're not worried about us. We respect them tremendously."
Reach Laura Wiens at firstname.lastname@example.org.