A seal lion pup who survived a 30-foot plunge from a bridge onto a section of the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach last December was released back into the wild on Monday.
The now 80-pound seal lion, affectionally named “Lords-a-Leaping,” was set free off a boat into the the ocean. That’s different from normal Pacific Marine Mammal Center protocol, where the pinnipeds are typically freed onto the sand before making their way into the water.
“Because of his inability to play well with the other sea lions … a little bit of his aggressive demeanor — it was decided that he needed to go off of a boat,” said Wendy Leeds of the PMMC, a Laguna Beach-based nonprofit that rescues and rehabilitates aquatic animals.
His release follows more than two months of treatment at the center following the incident on Dec. 23, 2019.
After crawling along an incline and climbing up the stairs that evening, the pup ended up on a wall of a pedestrian bridge near Aliso Beach. About 40 minutes later, the young sea lion “jumped off” the bridge, according to Laguna Police Department Sgt. Jim Cota.
PMMC personnel were dispatched to the scene and arrived just as Lords-a-Leaping dropped. His fall was broken by some bushes and branches, and the marine mammal “miraculously survived,” according to a post on the center’s Facebook page.
The pup was then taken to the organization’s Laguna Canyon facility, where radiographs found no broken bones or apparent injuries, according to the marine center.
“This is one seriously lucky sea lion,” PMMC officials said at the time.
However, a veterinarian for the group told the Orange County Register that the sea lion was emaciated and extremely dehydrated. He weighed just 33 pounds when he was rescued.
It’s unclear what prompted Lords-a-Leaping to venture onto the bridge, but officials suspect a combination of wintry weather and malnourishment prompted him to seek shelter and warmth away from the ocean, the Register reported.
Now about 50 pounds heavier, the sea lion was ready on Monday to go back into his natural territory.
“Thank goodness he’s gone,” Leeds said after Lords-a-Leaping’s release. “Like in a good way, thank goodness he’s gone, you know. He’s out there, he’s out where he belongs, so he’s thriving and that’s exactly what we want for all of our patients.”