Seal freed from plastic strap after three years

One elephant seal in Marin County is breathing a bit easier after researchers removed a plastic strap that had been seen digging into the animal’s neck since at least 2009.

Biologists had nicknamed the injured elephant seal “Mr. Elusive,” after his ability to elude Park Service and Marine Mammal Center staff. At least six previous attempts to approach the animal and remove the strap had failed.

But last week, Mr. Elusive was spotted at Drakes Beach, where he allowed rescuers to get close enough to sedate him using a long pole. Vet staff were then able to remove the strap, which had cut deep into the seal’s skin.

Jim Oswald, spokesman for the Mammal Center, said it was a good time rescuers were able to reach Mr. Elusive when they did:

“The saltwater is good for the wounds … He seemed to be functioning with the strap, but it was embedded in his skin, so we are not sure how much longer he could have gone.”

The five-year-old male is thought to weigh between 700 and 1,000 pounds. A female elephant seal rescued from a similar situation in 2004 continues to return to Point Reyes each year to have her pups.