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Sea Lion Found Shot In Santa Cruz Recovering

SAUSALITO (CBS SF) -- A sea lion rescued from the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf last week is recovering in Sausalito from an apparent gunshot wound, and the animal's caregivers are asking people who may have information about how the mammal was maimed to come forward.

King Neptune, a California sea lion, was rescued on Wednesday from the wharf after a member of the public reported seeing the injured animal.

The young adult pinniped appeared lethargic and underweight when he was initially examined by the Marine Mammal Center's rescue volunteers, spokesman Jim Oswald said.

Upon further examination at the center's Marin County facility, veterinarians determined that King Neptune had apparently been shot with a large-caliber weapon, as X-rays indicated bullet fragments were lodged "dangerously close to his spine," Oswald said.

Veterinarians estimated that the animal had been shot a few days before the rescue.

King Neptune was put on antibiotics to clear up an infection that resulted from the wound, which threatened to spread to his bones.

After receiving the infection-fighting drugs and some painkillers, the animal showed little interest in eating.

As of Tuesday morning, the pinniped was making a stronger recovery once he was coaxed into eating some fresh fish, Oswald said. Usually, the center's patients are fed thawed flash-frozen herring.

"He ate a couple of fish," Oswald said. "It's still less than a full serving of fish that he would have had in the wild, but we're slowly nursing him back to health."

King Neptune weighs about 320 pounds, making him a young adult, Oswald said. Full-grown adult male sea lions can weigh approximately 600 to 700 pounds.

"He's still got a little ways to go. Right now, it's really just about keeping an eye on him and taking care of his needs," Oswald said.

King Neptune is the fourth such wounded sea lion that the center has rescued in the past year, Oswald said.

In May, a female pup that had been shot was also rescued from the Santa Cruz wharf but did not survive. The two other pinniped rescues recovered from their injuries and were released into the wild, Oswald said.

Members of the public can report animal abuse or injuries to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Law Enforcement at (831) 647-2127.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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