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Sea lion rescued from San Diego freeway is returned to the Pacific Ocean

The sea lion was rescued from the median of a busy freeway in January. After some rehab, he was returned to his habitat.

SAN DIEGO — A sea lion that weaved through traffic on a busy Southern California freeway before it was rescued from a median last month has been returned to sea, SeaWorld San Diego said Friday.

"After a full month of rehabilitation, SeaWorld’s Rescue Team, in collaboration with veterinarians and NOAA, decided the sea lion was ready and approved to go back to his rightful home and was successfully returned to the ocean yesterday morning," the park said in a statement.

The animal, estimated to be 200 pounds, graduated from rehab with two others that also returned to the ocean Thursday, SeaWorld said.

Video provided by the park shows the animals in containers on a small boat and then slipping into a clear blue Pacific.

On Jan. 7, morning commuters reported that the animal was on the eastbound 94 freeway near Interstate 805, the California Highway Patrol said. After it crossed from a shoulder to a median, good Samaritans helped to corral the pinniped, CHP and SeaWorld said at the time.

The SeaWorld San Diego Rescue Team used nets to stop the marine mammal before transporting it by truck to its rescue center for a health evaluation and recovery.

California's sea lion population has been booming, leading San Diego officials to try to balance the marine mammals’ needs with those of coastal visitors. It has closed some areas popular with tourists as part of its response.

The freeway location where the animal was rescued is roughly 4 miles from San Diego Bay. How it got to one of the city's denser communities so far from the water isn't clear.

But SeaWorld has said the animal had a history of ending up in odd places. In November, it was rescued near the San Diego International Airport on the bay. In December, it was spotted at Naval Base Point Loma, on the Mission Beach boardwalk, and near a deli adjacent to nearby Mission Bay, home of SeaWorld, the park said.

So, it's not out of the question that this sea lion could ride again.