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Entangled sea lions thwart rescue

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Efforts failed last weekend to rescue two sea lions from fishing line that became stuck around their necks and heads.

The entangled animals were reported at Pier 39 on Friday and at the Hyde Street Pier on Saturday. Crews and volunteers from the Sausalito-based Marine Mammal Center on Saturday and Sunday used a patrol boat to search for the potentially injured sea lions.

Fishing-line entanglements are dangerous because they can hinder animals’ movements and can be attached to fishing hooks, which could lead to injuries and deadly infections.

Additionally, the muzzle of the sea lion spotted at Hyde Street Pier was wrapped with the line, which could affect its ability to hunt and eat, Marine Mammal Center spokesman Jim Oswald said.

The sea lion at Pier 39 eluded rescue efforts Saturday morning by diving into the water. Officials were unable to locate it again, despite searching for several hours, Oswald said.

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Officials located the entangled sea lion at Hyde Street Pier later Saturday and confirmed that it was not the same animal that was entangled at Pier 39, Oswald said.

But the sea lion fled when it was approached and subsequent search efforts failed.

“We’re at a standstill,” Oswald said. “We’re relying on people who happen to see these animals — or any marine mammals that are injured or in distress — to give us a call and we can go out there to rescue them.”

The population of the sea lions in San Francisco — especially at the Pier 39 tourist spot — recently fell dramatically. The sudden fall in numbers was “unusual” but not “highly unusual” because the species is migratory, Oswald said. The drop came just months after a record number of the mammals swarmed to the docks earlier in the year.

Sea lion populations became a fixture of San Francisco’s shoreline when they moved into the area shortly after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

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