Sean Williams was stunned and saddened on Sunday to see a 1,600-pound sea lion dead on the shores of Pipers Lagoon in Nanaimo.
Williams, a commercial diver, was told by a resident on Saturday about the marine mammal. He said he didn't see any obvious signs of trauma to the animal, other than some blood that was coming from its nose, and that it otherwise appeared to be a healthy specimen.
He then contacted marine biologists from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
Paul Cottrell, DFO's regional marine mammal co-ordinator, agreed that there are "no obvious signs" of the cause of the death of the sea lion, which he said is a mature animal that expired very recently, and it's still being determined whether the animal is a stellar or a California sea lion. He said scientists who visited the site couldn't find any bullet wounds or abrasions of any kind on its body.
"It's fairly common to find dead marine mammals on our coasts and, in most cases, they are caused by natural events like old age and sometimes they are victims of attacks by transient killer whales that escaped but died from their injuries later," Cottrell said.
"It should be said that there appears to be no connection between the death of this sea lion and the cluster of deaths of sea lions in the Campbell River area two months ago."
Cottrell said no autopsy is planned to determine the cause of death and DFO practice is to leave marine mammals where they lay to decompose naturally.
He encouraged anyone who sees a marine mammal injured, in distress or dead in local waters to call the marine mammal incident report hotline at 1-800-465-4336.
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