Hunter, the high-spirited sea lion you see above, had a rough start in life.
As a pup of six months, he was part of a mass stranding on the California coast, an event likely caused by a dramatic shift in the availability of prey, such as sardines. As nursing sea lion mothers traveled farther from their pups to find food, thousands of young sea lions washed ashore due to starvation. Hunter was among them.
He was rescued and rehabilitated by The Marine Mammal Care Center of Los Angeles, but four months after his release, he was stranded again and discovered with a fish hook stuck in his mouth. This time he was rescued and rehabilitated by the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach.
But his troubles didn’t end there. He was stranded, rescued and rehabilitated two more times. The last time he was found with propeller wounds to his body.
Once the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration deemed him non-releasable, Georgia Aquarium stepped up to provide the sea lion with permanent care and a forever home as part of its mission to rescue and rehabilitate marine life. Aquarium veterinary and animal care team members traveled to California to finalize preparations for his transport and travel with him back to Atlanta. He arrived in early 2017, the seventh rescued California sea lion to the Georgia Aquarium family.
The Aquarium named him Hunter as a tribute to Huntington Beach, California, where he was rescued, and a reminder of the mass stranding events off California coasts.
During his trials in the wild, Hunter injured his left eye, resulting in limited vision. In August he underwent eye surgery at the hands of highly specialized experts including a veterinary ophthalmologist who specializes in aquatic animals and a veterinary anesthesiologist.
The surgery was a success.
Hunter was back in the water a few weeks later, closely monitored by his trainers, who administered post-operative eye treatments.
He has since made a full recovery and continues to learn and grow, and you can see in the video below.
Happy 1-year anniversary to Hunter, our 7th rescued #sealion! See how we’ve been #HelpingHunter the past year to grow and thrive: pic.twitter.com/WsQzGRTCO6
— Georgia Aquarium (@GeorgiaAquarium) January 25, 2018