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San Francisco Sea Lions Have Wires Around Necks

San Francisco Sea Lions

First Posted: 07/29/11 02:52 PM ET Updated: 09/28/11 06:12 AM ET

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Wildlife rescuers are trying to corral two young sea lions that have been spotted at San Francisco's Pier 39 with wires dangerously wrapped around their necks.

During the past month, rescuers with the Sausalito-based Marine Mammal Center have made four unsuccessful attempts — the latest on Tuesday — to capture the animals to remove what appear to be fishing lines, spokesman Jim Oswald said Friday.

Rescuers in small boats and wetsuits have frightened away the two pinnipeds, which have worried tourists visiting the Pier 39 docks, a well-known hangout for lounging sea lions.

"They have been eluding the rescuers," Oswald told The Associated Press. "Right now we just have to wait and see. We have to make sure to be careful with these animals. We don't want to stress them out and tighten the entanglements."

The wires could lead to infections if deep cuts occur in the skin of the animals, or the entanglements could slowly strangle or starve the sea lions as they grow bigger.

About 3 to 8 percent of the hundreds of animals rescued by the Marine Mammal Center each year are victims of entanglements, Oswald said. The most common reasons for rescue are malnourishment, injuries, diseases and gunshot wounds.

Last year, the center treated as many as 25 animals that had been injured by wires, fishing nets and other trash floating in the ocean.

"What we don't know is how many more are out there that don't get reported," Oswald said. "It does bring to light the bigger issue of ocean trash and getting entangled in this stuff."

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Filed by Carly Schwartz  |