During his last encounter with humans, Kris the sea lion’s lower jaw was broken, either by a club or a bullet.
Today, other humans are trying to save his life at the Marine Mammal Center.
Kris, named by center officials for Kris Kringle, washed ashore Saturday just south of Main Beach, severely malnourished and close to death, his face frozen into a grotesque smile.
Center veterinarians are giving him antibiotics and seven pounds of fish daily in hopes of strengthening him enough to withstand surgery next week. On Wednesday, he was standing and swimming, albeit groggily.
He is the fifth sea lion to be brought to the center this year either beaten or shot, center officials said. Three of those have died.
“Right now, Kris is doing really good,” said Judi Jones, a center spokeswoman, who estimated his age at 18 months. “We don’t think this is a fresh wound and with his jaw this way, there was no way that he could catch fish naturally.”
Sea lions of his age normally weigh about 90 pounds, but Kris weighed 66 pounds when he was found, Jones said. When fully grown at 6 years, a male sea lion weighs 900 pounds, Jones said.
Although it is a federal crime punishable by a year in prison and a $25,000 fine to harm a sea lion, the intentional maiming of the creatures is not unusual, Jones said.
“The wounded animals that we see at the center are only the tip of the iceberg,” Jones said. “Most of them don’t make it to shore.”
She said many of the animals are attacked by fishermen angered that the sea lions are eating their catch.
“But those people have to remember that the sea lions were here first and that humans are the intruders,” Jones said. “They also need to remember that these fish are all the sea lions have to eat, that they can’t go to McDonald’s and get a fish burger.
“But I don’t want to place the blame totally on fisherman,” she said. “There are a lot of people out there who drink some beer and think it’s fun to go and beat and shoot sea lions.”