A sea lion that was in danger of dying just a couple weeks ago will be returned to the wild Friday with a clean bill of health.
Named Abagnale after the 1960s fugitive Frank Abagnale who was portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the movie "Catch Me If You Can," the animal has recovered enough to be released after being found with a fishing line deeply embedded in him, Marine Mammal Center spokesman Jim 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'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 300-pound sea lion is back to his feisty self and ready to go back to the wild after recovering at the Marine Mammal Center, Oswald said. Marine mammal experts and volunteers will send Abagnale him on his way back to the ocean by way of Rodeo Beach around 11 a.m. Friday. Vets will put a tag on Abagnale's tail flippers so they can keep track of where he goes and make sure he doesn't run into trouble somewhere else.
Marine mammal experts tried nearly 20 times to capture the elusive animal, which was first spotted at Pier 39 in San Francisco with the fishing line tangled around his neck and mouth on Jan. 1.
On Jan. 24, after weeks of trying to capture Abagnale, a team from the center shot darts at him that contained an anti-anxiety sedative to slow him down and facilitate the rescue. The method had never been tried by the center with a free-swimming marine mammal in the wild, Oswald said.
Bay City News contributed to this report.