By Cathy Locke
Sgt. Nevis, a sea lion allegedly shot in the head by a fisherman on the Sacramento River last November, is scheduled to undergo reconstructive surgery in Vallejo on Friday. (Photo at left is of Sgt. Nevis at his Six Flags Discovery Kingdom debut.)
The surgery to repair damage to the sea lion's muzzle will be performed Dr. Praful Ramenini, a specialist in human reconstructive surgery, and veterinarians Bill Van Bonn of the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito and Diana Procter of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo.
Because Sgt. Nevis' injuries prevent him from diving deeply to forage and fears that, if released to the ocean, he would return to areas where might be shot again, veterinarians at the Marine Mammal Center found a home for him at Six Flags.
The surgery won't make it possible for the sea lion to return to the wild, but veterinarians hope it will improve his quality of life
Van Bonn said this is the first time such a procedure had been attempted on a sea lion.
"Currently, he can dive," Van Bonn said, "but he prefers not to because his nose fills up with water. We are very, very hopeful that by sealing up the holes and allowing him to close off his nose, he will be more comfortable."
Van Bonn said Ramenini will perform the surgery to reconstruct the soft tissue.
"The prognosis is cautiously optimistic," Van Bonn said.
The 650-pound adult male California sea lion was nicknamed Sgt. Nevis after Yolo County animal control Officer Sgt. Michael Nevis who helped the Marine Mammal Center rescue him Dec. 5.
The man accused of shooting the sea lion, Larry Allen Legans, 44, of North Highlands, has pleaded not guilty to a single charge of animal cruelty in Sutter Superior Court. His is scheduled for trial Oct. 19.
Jim Oswald, spokesman for the Marine Mammal Center, said that of the 1,074 marine mammals the center rescued last year, 18 were victims of gunshot wounds. Oswald said he hopes the story of Sgt. Nevis will make people pause to consider the impacts of their actions on wildlife.
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.