LAGUNA BEACH (CBSLA) — A 2-year-old sea lion has been released back into the wild after having two dozen rocks removed from her stomach.
The sea lion nicknamed Chompers is finally back on her own after healing from an infection caused by a fishing line hook in her neck and ingesting rocks because she was unable to catch fish.
Chompers had been rescued off a buoy in Newport Beach and weighed just 70 pounds when she arrived at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center’s animal hospital on July 10, according to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
But even after the fishing line entanglement was removed, her wound was cleaned, and she was put on pain medication and antibiotics, Chompers still refused to eat fish. X-rays of her stomach revealed rocks, which some sea lions have been known to eat to feel full, but can result in severe weight loss if they are not eventually vomited up. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center said they believed the infection from the wound caused by the fishing line entanglement affected her ability to catch fish, so she may have eaten the rocks out of hunger.
Chompers was given nutrition via tube feedings and given medication to stimulate her appetite for a month, but when she still refused to eat fish, a surgical procedure was deemed necessary to remove the rocks from her stomach. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center did not want to subject Chompers to invasive abdominal surgery due to the risk of the incision site opening up or getting infected since sea lions drag their abdomens on the ground as they move about. So the Pacific Marine Mammal Center contacted the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach for help in obtaining an endoscope.
Two veterinarians from the Aquarium helped remove 12 large rocks from Chomper’s stomach while she was under general anesthesia on July 28. The removal apparently gave Chompers room to vomit up 12 more rocks, which were found wrapped in her blankets overnight, according to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
Chompers lost nearly 20 pounds in her more than three weeks of not eating at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, but finally ate fish on her own on Aug. 3. She gained another 45 pounds before she was released back into the wild on Nov. 6.
Chompers’ predicament also demonstrated the need for an endoscope, so the city of Laguna Beach donated the funds for a refurbished endoscopy unit, which the Pacific Marine Mammal Center says has already been put to use on a very young sea lion pup that had more than 40 rocks in his stomach.