Infection may have contributed to death of harpooned sea lion

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SAN DIEGO -- An infection may have contributed to the death of a large sea lion brought to SeaWorld San Diego with a harpoon-like blade in his side, although official necropsy results were pending Friday.

The sea lion, which weighed around 600 pounds and was given the name “Bubba,''  died on Wednesday, eight days after he was found impaled by a homemade metal spear on a harbor dock in the Channel Islands Harbor Oxnard and was taken to SeaWorld.

“The park's veterinarians and animal care team had high hopes for Bubba's recovery, and his death saddens all of us at SeaWorld,'' park officials said in a statement.

During his stay at the park's Animal Rescue Center, Bubba received round- the-clock treatment from veterinarians and animal care workers, including antibiotics, according to SeaWorld. However, Bubba refused to eat repeated offers of fish and became increasingly lethargic.

Despite intense efforts to save him, Bubba died during a medical exam, SeaWorld officials said.

“Bubba was sedated to allow park veterinarians to conduct a more in-depth medical exam to further assess the extent of his injury and collect blood samples,'' according to the SeaWorld statement. ``During the exam, he arrested and despite strenuous efforts to resuscitate him, he could not be revived.''

Park officials said the initial results of a necropsy indicated the spear penetrated about 6 centimeters into the sea lion's side and he had a significant infection that could not be detected prior to his death.

“While the wound did not penetrate into the abdominal cavity, there was enlargement of abdominal lymph nodes suggesting chronic infection,'' SeaWorld said in the statement.

Blood tests also showed inflammation and low glucose.

SeaWorld veterinarians believe the infection, inflammation and glucose deficiency “contributed significantly to Bubba's death,'' but said the full results of the necropsy would not be known for several weeks.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits harming or killing sea lions and other pinnipeds.

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