Farmer finds Australian sea lion in paddock at Bletchley, near Strathalbyn

IT is not every day a farmer finds a sea lion in his paddock – just today.

Bletchley farmer Eric Neumann’s cows were acting a bit strangely when he went out to check on them this morning, but he only realised why when he saw the brown sea lion sitting next to a fence.

It is not known how the youngster found itself at Bletchley, east of Strathalbyn, close enough to the Bremer River but still a long way from Lake Alexandrina (about 20 kilometres) and the ocean (about 40 kilometres).

National Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin officers were called in to catch the animal, with advice from experts at Zoos SA and the South Australian Museum.

Unsurprisingly, Paul Gillen said it was his first attempt at catching a marine mammal.

“It got a bit feisty, but once we got it in the cage it settled down again,” he said.

District manager Sarah Lance said the interloper was not one of the long-nosed fur seals that have recently devastated the Coorong and Lower Lakes fishery.

“We believe he’s an Australian sea lion in his brown fur phase, heading through being an older juvenile, but still a juvenile,” she said.

“They have a period before they get big and grey.”

However, given the sea lion’s young age and likely need for some TLC after its unusual ordeal, Ms Lance said it was unlikely to be returned to the wild.

“Adelaide Zoo’s ready and willing, and there’s plenty of places for seals across the world,” she said. “He’ll have an interesting life, and he’s had an interesting day.

“He’s definitely the most interesting thing I’ve had a phone call about.”

There are fewer than 15,000 Australian fur seals in the wild, most of which live in South Australia.

- Details: If you have any information about how the sea lion came to be at Bletchley, or if you saw it on its way, phone the Murray Bridge Natural Resources Centre on 8532 9100.

Source: Murray Valley Standard