VALLEJO (AP) – A California sea lion that was shot in the face underwent plastic surgery to fix his damaged muzzle Friday.

Veterinarians and a plastic surgeon operated on the 650-pound animal known as Sgt. Nevis at the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom theme park in Vallejo, where he has lived the past several months.

During a two-hour operation, they loosened skin around the pinneped’s face and pulled it to close two gaping holes above his nose.

Officials say Sgt. Nevis is the first sea lion to undergo reconstructive surgery for a gunshot wound.

The sea lion had two deep gunshot wounds above his nose when animal rescuers found him in the Sacramento River in November. The mammal was in critical condition and its weight had dropped to 358 pounds.

The animals named after Yolo County Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Nevis, who was with the sea lion during its rescue was taken to the Marine Mammal Center’s hospital in Sausalito where he was nursed back to health before being moved to Six Flags.

In May, the mammal made its debut at the park’s Seal Cove Exhibit, which includes other sea lions as well as harbor seals.

Officials say the shooting damaged his nose, limiting his ability to dive underwater for food and changing the way he breathed.

The injuries prevent him from surviving the wild, but doctors hope he’ll be able to dive deep enough in the exhibit’s pools to return to normal eating behavior.

A Sacramento-area fisherman was arrested in November on suspicion of shooting the sea lion and charged with a felony charge of animal cruelty. He is scheduled to be back in court later this month.

Authorities say a witness had reported that the animal had been shot on a dock in Sacramento. They say the suspect was tired of watching the protected animals take his fish so he fired his shotgun at the sea lion.

The Marine Mammal Center says 18 of the 1,704 marine mammals rescued last year had suffered gunshot wounds.

(© 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)