VACAVILLE, Calif. – A young sea lion spotted in a Northern California farmland canal was feasting on carp as it made its way home Wednesday, a day after rescue crews tried to get him out to be evaluated.
Dr. Cara Field of the Marine Mammal Center said the 400-pound sea lion spotted Tuesday in a canal in the inland city of Vacaville started heading back toward the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta.
Field said the sea lion was in no danger from swimming in the fresh water and could survive for years outside the ocean with a plentiful food source.
She says he found it: carp. Field says the sea lion chowed down before heading toward the delta and kept eating as he made his way home.
Marine mammal experts had mounted a rescue effort Tuesday to get the sea lion out of the canal but he hid in a cement drainage pipe. They resumed their efforts after the sea lion emerged from the pipe on Wednesday but after seeing him swim out of the canal, officials decided to let it keep going.
"We were prepared to rescue him but the fact that he was swimming with such purpose and appeared comfortable in navigating his way back, gives us confidence he'll be just fine," Field said.
The closest body of water is the Sacramento River, about 50 miles north. Experts at the center believe the animal likely traveled up the river, took a wrong turn and followed a series of agricultural ditches and waterways to get to the canal in Vacaville, between San Francisco and Sacramento.
The mammal, believed to be a young male, is fat and looked healthy and seemed to be enjoying his adventure, center spokesman Giancarlo Rulli said.
The sea lion's swim toward the delta came a day after police officers, fire officials and more than a dozen marine responders tried unsuccessfully for hours to flush the animal out of a drainage pipe.
Officials wanted to take the animal first spotted by an animal services official to the center in Sausalito to be evaluated.