Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information about who will decide whether the sea lion should be kept in captivity or released into the wild. The error has been corrected.
The unusual sighting was reported at 9:40 a.m. in the eastbound lanes of state Route 94, just west of Interstate 805 near the Mount Hope neighborhood, according to a news release from California Highway Patrol.
Leslie Fernandes was one of the drivers who got out of their cars to herd the animal.
“We were just trying to keep it from going from one side of the freeway to the other, keep it in the middle,” Fernandes said. “Couple of times he got aggressive and tried to come out towards the oncoming traffic.”
CHP officers arrived to stop traffic.
“They stopped it several times but there [were] times when the traffic was coming and the sea lion was moving quickly, trying to go to one side of the freeway or the other,” Fernandes added.
A rescue team from SeaWorld San Diego arrived and scooped the roughly 250-pound young male sea lion into a safety net and loaded it into a truck.
But Friday wasn’t the first time the creature needed rescuing.
“This animal has been in our rescue facility before,” said Eric Otjen with the SeaWorld rescue team. “It was rescued in early November from Harbor Island Drive, was released shortly after and has been showing up in kind of odd situations and spots since then. This is the weirdest, though.”
The rescue team members recognized the sea lion because they had tagged it during its previous rescue. The sea lion had traveled to SR-94 from Point Loma since Thursday, and was in Mission Beach, Mission Bay and La Jolla earlier in the week, according to a SeaWorld spokesperson.
A SeaWorld spokesperson said that its team plans to conduct testing, and the National Marine Fisheries Service will determine whether the sea lion should be kept in captivity or released back into the wild.
“We were just glad that we were able to get out here and take care of things,” Otjen added. “This one I’ll be telling the kids about tonight.”