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After Shotgun Blast, Buck the Sea Lion Returns to Ocean

After three months of rehab, Buck was released in Imperial Beach by SeaWorld Animal Rescue.

After a minute or two of sniffing seaweed and getting reacquainted with wet sand, Buck the sea lion made his way toward the sea Friday and disappeared into the waves.

Three months after being rescued, Buck was released back into the wild Friday at Border Field State Park in Imperial Beach.

“He has a strong, domineering personality and he’s an adult male California sea lion,” said Jody Westberg, a senior animal care specialist at SeaWorld San Diego. "That’s what we want to see, and I think Buck’s ready to go, too.”

After being injured for about a week, Buck was picked up in La Jolla by SeaWorld Animal Rescue in October.

At first the rescue team believed he may have been in a rough fight with another sea lion, but an examination revealed he had been shot point-blank range with a shotgun.

Buck lost an eye, and 50 or more pieces of buckshot were found in his muscle and blubber, Westberg said.

But an infection he suffered healed and he gained more than 50 pounds while being cared for, and Friday he returned to his natural home.

“When you rescue an animal with that severe trauma to its face, you’re really not sure if they can be rehabilitated or returned to the wild so today this is the reward,” Westberg said.

“And throughout Buck’s rehabilitation, he’s really showed us he has the attitude of a survivor,” she continued.

He was released near the U.S.-Mexico border because the beach is secluded and near the Coronado Islands.

“We always want to set these animals up for success when we return them to the wild,” Westberg said. “The Coronado Islands are known as an area where there is a sea lion population and there are rookeries [breeding grounds] and that they thrive there.”

Another sea lion found shot on the La Jolla shoreline weeks before Buck died of its wounds. A suspect in the shooting of the sea lions has not been found, Westberg said.

Any person convicted of shooting a sea lion can face a $100,000 fine, one year in jail, or both, NOAA Fisheries Service said.

Mark January 12, 2013 at 02:04 AM
Happy ending to this story. :-)
Skip Stein January 12, 2013 at 11:22 PM
If the person who thinks he or she is a better animal than a sea lion, how about that person being shot in the face with a shot gun... then we'll see. The sea lion was in his own yard of the sea, being cruel to an animal simply makes the shooter a smaller animal in the kingdom. Happy trails sea lion.
Ed Sorrels January 14, 2013 at 01:37 AM
Another of God's creatures is back where he belongs. As a very long time S.C.U.B.A. diver there few thing's as enjoyable as interacting with one of these guy in their natural enviorment. They are intelligent,Curious and all together delightful either as a single animal or when you are surrounded by them ! And for they animal that shot him, There really is Karma in this world and your time will come !
Ed Sorrels January 15, 2013 at 04:53 AM
Just watched the video clip, got a chuckle, Looked like he was trying to decide whether he wanted handout's or freedom, Freedom won out as it should. Here is to a long, free and happy life !
Jessica Quisenberry Dailey January 15, 2013 at 04:48 PM
Bon Voyage Buck! God bless those that saved his life and set him free.

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