Rescuers find, help impaled sea lion after search sparked by photo

LOS ANGELES -- A sea lion impaled by a homemade spear is recovering at SeaWorld after being rescued off the Southern California coast.

KTLA-TV reported that the search was launched after a photograph from Oxnard surfaced showing the animal had been stabbed with a metal rod.

In the image, a sea lion can be seen resting on a dock at Oxnard’s Peninsula Yacht Marina with a large gash spanning much of its body vertically, and a rod appearing to stick out from its gut.

“It indicates that somebody must have deliberately gouged that poor (sea lion) and made about a 12-inch gash,” Tony Raimondo, who took the picture on Saturday, told KTLA.

Raimondo contacted animal officials.

Los Angeles news station KNBC-TV reports ( ) that a team spent much of Tuesday searching Channel Islands Harbor before spotting the injured male sea lion nicknamed Bubba.

Rescuers managed to hit the animal with tranquilizer darts and drag him ashore in a net. He's estimated to weigh more than 600 pounds.

Veterinarian Sam Dover discovered the blade was so deeply embedded that it had to be cut out with a scalpel. Dover says it appears Bubba was intentionally stabbed.

The metal spear was taken as evidence. Harming a sea lion is a federal offense.

Both officials and Raimondo agreed the injury appeared intentional.

“It’s horrible, and just amazing how many demented minds we have,” Raimondo told KTLA. “If a human did it, he deserves to be punished.”

The apparent stabbing occurred as a surge of stranded sea lions were found in Southern California.

As of last Wednesday, 3,110 sea lions had been found stranded in California since January, mostly between San Diego and Santa Barbara, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported.