(Reuters) - A massive sea lion nicknamed Bubba, who had been rescued from Southern California waters after being impaled by a harpoon-like blade, has died apparently of an infection, SeaWorld officials said on Thursday.
The injured 600-pound (272-kg) male had sparked a rescue effort last month after he was spotted on a dock in Oxnard, about 60 miles (96 km) northwest of Los Angeles.
Rescuers captured the sea lion on May 26 and brought him to SeaWorld in San Diego, where veterinarians removed the spear from his side.
On Wednesday, while he was sedated so veterinarians could conduct a more in-depth exam, Bubba went into cardiac arrest and could not be revived, SeaWorld said in a statement.
"It is with great sadness that we report the large male sea lion, affectionately known as 'Bubba,' died yesterday despite round-the-clock treatment from our veterinarians and animal care team," SeaWorld said.
While at the park's rescue center, Bubba had received injectible antibiotics for several days. Veterinarians decided on the more extensive exam because he had repeatedly declined offers of fish and was becoming increasingly lethargic.
Initial results of a necropsy revealed the wound penetrated about 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) into Bubba's side and he had a significant infection "that could not have been known prior to his death," SeaWorld said.
Full results of the necropsy are weeks away but "park veterinarians feel that the infection, inflammation and metabolic glucose deficiency contributed significantly to Bubba's death," SeaWorld said.
"The park's veterinarians and animal care team had high hopes for Bubba's recovery, and his death saddens all of us at SeaWorld," the statement said.
(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Sandra Maler)