SAN DIEGO – A sea lion by the name of Freeway was unstoppable. He looked at restaurants by the water, zipped down a congested city street, and waddled into a city creek. Finally, scientists at SeaWorld San Diego claimed that a growing illness had caused enough harm that the park decided to put him to sleep in order to save him pain. “It is with heavy hearts that we share ‘Freeway,’ the rescued sea lion, passed away yesterday — surrounded with love from his devoted care and rescue teams,” the park wrote on Facebook on Friday.

The sickness and its effects were not made explicit by SeaWorld, only stating that Freeway developed the illness before he gained notoriety. Despite intensive therapy, the condition eventually led to a decline in his health, according to SeaWorld. The team decided to humanely euthanize him because of his decline,  a very difficult but compassionate decision. Freeway was moving as he blocked traffic last year.

He was found or saved in late 2021 close to the San Diego International Airport, the Naval Base Point Loma, the Mission Beach beachfront, and a deli next to Mission Bay, according to SeaWorld.

On January 7, 2022, Freeway came to rest on eastbound State Route 94, a major thoroughfare for the state’s second-largest city, 4 miles from the shore, earning his nickname.The California Highway Patrol and SeaWorld both confirmed that the 200-pound marine creature had been saved from a motorway median.

Before being released back into the water in February 2022, he was transferred to the SeaWorld San Diego Rescue Center for a health evaluation and rehabilitation.Freeway was seen wandering once more in May, this time in a creek about a mile from the sea. He was removed from Chollas Creek, a stormwater channel lined with concrete, by SeaWorld personnel, who retained him.

Indigenous to the Western Coast of the U.S., California’s sea lions are protected by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. In order to balance their requirements with those of people, San Diego officials are considering restricting coastal beach access and parks due to their population tripling between 1975 and 2014, according to a 2018 study. SeaWorld San Diego stated on Friday that Freeway’s eagerness for the road trip wouldn’t soon be forgotten. “His adventurous spirit won the hearts of all San Diegans and he will be remembered for that and so much more,” the statement read.

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