If you follow us on Facebook, you may recall in January SR3 responded to a beached steller sea lion in Port Angeles, WA that had been ashore for about a week. During that time, Feiro Marine Life Center (part of the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network) was monitoring and coordinating with WDFW and NOAA on the animal’s status and next steps. After careful consideration, it was determined that the animal was in poor health and its condition would continue to decline. The decision was made by NOAA and WDFW that euthanasia was the best option. SR3’s Executive Director and Veterinarian Dr. Lesanna Lahner, Casey Mclean our Animal Medical Care Coordinator, and personnel from WDFW humanely carried out the euthanasia and performed a full necropsy (an animal autopsy) on site to learn more about the animal’s condition.
This steller sea lion was an adult male, estimated at 15 years of age. The average age of a steller sea lion is between 20 and 30 years according to NOAA. While it may be tempting to shrug off one animal's death and attribute it to "old age", which is not a disease that animals or humans can die from, the necropsy findings of this animal prove exactly why it's important to take a closer look. From the necropsy report, the animal was found to have “an acute bronchopneumonia, severe fibrosis of his lungs and liver, and fluid around his brain.” These findings contributed to his overall poor health. The most interesting finding however, was a urogenital carcinoma found on his penis. Though it wasn’t the cause of death, it was important because this is the first known case in a steller sea lion. Urogenital carcinomas (cancer typically originating in the genital tract) are quite prevalent in adult California sea lions, the steller sea lion's smaller cousin.
This stranding is a great example as to why SR3 was created. Please help us reach our goal of creating the first dedicated marine wildlife rehabilitation facility in the Pacific Northwest that is coupled with cutting edge research and teaching to improve the health of our oceans!
A special thank you to Feiro Marine Life Center, NOAA, and WDFW for their work on this case.