2018 Sitka Steller Sea Lion Response: Hazing, Rescue, Relocation
Summary of a Steller sea lion relocation in Sitka, Alaska
On the morning of Friday, August 30, 2018 the National Marine Fisheries Service stranding team in Juneau was notified of a large, male Steller sea lion observed on the grass on the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium campus in Sitka, Alaska, approximately 200 m from the shoreline. For four days, including Labor Day, attempts to get the animal back to the water evolved from simply allowing the animal time to relocate itself, to hazing, and finally to sedation and relocation using heavy equipment. The event was a synergy of complications and challenges involving animal behavior, human behavior, and the physical environment, but a successful resolution was possible through tremendous collaboration and cooperation by a variety of groups and individuals. It is unclear what prompted the stranding in the first place, and disease or health issues were a consideration. However, no evidence of ill health was apparent throughout the time the sea lion was on land, and he has subsequently been satellite tracked to a haulout >600 km away with no indication of restranding. This event provided important lessons learned that could be applied to future stranding events of this nature.