Rescued sea lions find home at Shedd

January 17, 2013 5:19:07 AM PST
It's a tale of two tails - or four flippers - at Shedd Aquarium.

Tanner and Cruz are two sea lions rescued from the wild.

Tanner comes from the Columbia River in Oregon. Chinook salmon swim upstream to spawn in the Columbia River, which makes them easy picking for sea lions.

"Unfortunately California Sea Lions learned if they swam a hundred and twenty five miles upriver and sat on the fish ladder they could catch the salmon as they went up stream and have a free smorgasbord of food," Ken Ramirez, executive VP animal care and training, said.

Tanner turned out to be a glutton. He was eating so much salmon, about 90 pounds a day, that wildlife officials were threatening to kill him. That's when the Shedd stepped in to save this salmon lover.

"He was eating too much of an endangered species of salmon and consequently he was put on the black list of being a bad boy," Ramirez said.

Tanner weighed almost 1,000 pounds! Now, he's down to a much healthier weight of 500 pounds and on exhibit at Shedd.

Cruz, however, remains behind the scenes. The 60-pound male was abandoned near Santa Cruz.

"As he was brought into the marine mammal center in California it was found that he had been shot with a shotgun and has shrapnel in his head and is totally blind," Ramirez said.

Cruz is being trained to earn his feed, but his target is like a baby rattle.

"He uses it exactly like the sighted animals except instead of using his eyes he's just listening for it and that's what guides him from place to place," Cruz said.

They were two sea lions headed for sea lion heaven, but now their heaven is the Shedd.