Abagnale the Sea Lion Swims Free Again

By Jessica Greene and Joe Rosato Jr.
|  Saturday, Feb 6, 2010  |  Updated 1:41 PM PDT
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Sea Lions Come up Sick In Sausalito

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Veterinarians and volunteers sent Abagnale the sea lion back to the ocean Friday.

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Abagnale the Sea Lion Returns to the Wild

He eluded capture from rescuers for weeks after being spotted with fishing line wrapped around his snout but on Friday, Abagnale the sea lion swam free in the ocean again.
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Abagnale the sea lion is back where he belongs.

Veterinarians and volunteers released the feisty animal at a Bay Area beach Friday after nursing him back to health for two weeks at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

About a dozen school kids watched as marine experts sent Abagnale back to the wild. He sniffed the salt air, surveyed the crowd and scampered over the sand to the shoreline at Rodeo Beach Friday morning.

"It's not about saving a sea lion." Rescue volunteer Sue Pemberton said. "It's about alleviating the pain and suffering that another being is experiencing."

The sea lion was first spotted on New Year's Eve at Pier 39 in San Francisco with fishing line wrapped around his snout. It took rescuers more than 20 attempts to capture him. Rescuers named him Abagnale after the 1960s fugitive Frank Abagnale who was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie "Catch Me If You Can."

Abagnale was 100 pounds underweight when they finally managed to get him to the Marine Mammal Center, where they could treat the deep gashes on his head, give him antibiotics and a fighting chance to survive. Abagnale's wounds have healed and he has put on some much-needed weight. He ate about 100 pounds of herring during his recovery, Oswald said.

The fishing line was wrapped so tightly around his snout, veterinarians thought it might have cut through the skin and made its way all the way through to the inside of his mouth, but it wasn't quite that severe, Oswald said.

Abagnale took a look back at the group as he swam his way to a hopefully healthy new life. He's now wearing a tag on his tail flippers so marine vets can keep track of him and make sure he stays out of trouble.

Experts at the Marine Mammal Center tell us about eight percent of the 120 animals that came into the center last year had some sort of debris on them.

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