Kaouk, Port Alice’s “Trailer Park Sea Lion”, has been released back into the wild and appears to be feasting on herring. He also has quite the human following.
Kaouk is the male Steller sea lion that baffled residents by walking 300 metres to enter Port Alice trailer park on Dec. 16. DFO and RCMP responded and because Kaouk appeared malnourished (and too interested in humans), Pacific Coastal generously flew him to the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre (MMR). He rehabilitated very well, even doubling in weight in his three months there.
Kaouk inspired the students of Port Alice to write a children’s book to fund marine mammal rescue and research and, on Mar. 17 was reintroduced into the wild from Toquart Bay on southwestern Vancouver Island, near Barkley Sound.
This location was chosen for its ease of access (Kaouk could be released from land) and because an abundant run of herring was known to be in the area. There are other juvenile Steller sea lions nearby and, very significantly, it’s a long way to the Port Alice trailer park!
In all the wonderful work done by MMR, Kaouk’s rescue and release back into the wild is a first for them and maybe even for British Columbia. Never before have we humans come together like this to make the effort to rescue and release a Steller sea lion (a species protected under Canada’s Species at Risk Act).
Kaouk continues to be quite the marine ambassador, offering us the opportunity to learn about his species, his rescue and release, and by being the “test case” for justifying this effort for other sea lions.
For these reasons, and to ensure he is safe and staying wild, Kaouk was satellite tagged. These tags are applied with epoxy and will fall off when Kaouk moults (sometime after June).
DFO and MMR have made this data publicly available so that we can all follow this next chapter in Kaouk’s progress. In his first three days back in the wild, he has crisscrossed through more than 28 km and appears not even to have gone ashore in that time!
You can access his tracking data, photographs, video of his release, and further information from Vancouver Aquarium’s MMR via www.themarinedetective.ca. (Note that this data is not as refined as that available to DFO and there is a day’s lag time in the uploading of locations.)
Jackie Hildering is a biologist, avid scuba diver, and marine educator who lives in Port McNeill.