A rescue team from SeaWorld helped save a sea lion pup found with a diver’s swim mask wrapped around his neck at a northern San Diego County beach on Tuesday.
The approximately year-old male sea lion’s head was possibly stuck in the mask for several weeks before he was rescued at Swami’s Beach in Encinitas, according to a news release from SeaWorld San Diego.
The device had already hindered the pup’s ability to forage and eat; by the time rescuers found him, the sea lion weighed just 32 pounds, well below the normal weight of 55 to 65 pounds.
He was “significantly malnourished and dehydrated,” the release stated.
The sea lion would have eventually died of starvation or strangulation had the swim mask not been removed, officials added.
When the rescue team cut the mask off the sea lion, they discovered a wound caused by the device was already infected.
The sea lion was transported to SeaWorld’s Animal Health and Rescue Center, where the laceration was treated.
“Other than the neck wound and being malnourished, the pup appears to be in generally good health,” the release stated.
The pup will be cared for in a rehabilitation program before being released back into the ocean in the next few months.