An elephant seal that for two years struggled with a packing strap entangled around its neck recently was freed from the strangulating band at Point Reyes National Seashore, and biologists expect the animal to fully recover.
The subadult male, estimated to weigh somewhere between 700 and 1,000 pounds, was first spotted with the band around its neck back in 2009, according to John A. Dell'Osso, the seashore's chief of Interpretation and Resource Education.
Since that first spotting in 2009 biologists have been trying to capture the elephant seal so they could remove the strap, which bit into the animal's neck as it grew.
The elephant seal, thought to be about 5 years old, was spotted on the seashore's coastline, where hundreds of elephant seals arrive during the winter for breeding.
"In order to remove the thick white packing strap that was wrapped tightly around his neck, the seal was first approached and sedated, then had his head covered with a towel to calm him down, then veterinarian staff from The Marine Mammal Center located the strap, buried deeply in a wound on the seal's neck and removed it," Chief Dell'Osso said. "Finally, the area around the neck was cleaned and the animal quickly returned to the ocean."
Back in 2004 a similar situation was encountered with a young female elephant seal, according to the chief. In that case, biologists were able to quickly remove the strap. The elephant seal continues to return to Point Reyes each year and give birth to pups, he added.
There are currently more than 700 elephant seals on the beaches at Point Reyes National Seashore, and approximately 220 pups have already been born. Last year, more than 600 pups were born on Point Reyes' beaches.