On September 9, 2013 a male seal named Polaris was rescued from the Barnet Marine Park in Burnaby, British Columbia and brought to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Like the other 72 rescued seal pups last summer, he was given exceptional care and by the end of the summer when he had gained adequate weight, was given a clean bill of health by veterinary staff and had learned to forage, he was deemed releasable.
On November 20, 2013 a team of staff and volunteers from the Rescue Centre drove out to Porteau Cove Provincial Park to release Polaris along with seven other seal pups that day, five of which were equipped with satellite linked transmitters.
As a method of delivering feedback to our rescue and research team, each year a handful of seal pups are outfitted with GPS locators that are expected to last anywhere from three to six months. The satellite transmitters are placed on the seal pups’ heads with a non-toxic epoxy that will come off naturally as the seals’ fur begins to moult. The tracking devices illustrate how far the seals swim, where they are making their homes and lets us know if they are returning to their original rescue locations, which for many were busy ports and harbours.
Polaris’ tracker is still going strong at after over 260 days at sea and as seen by the map below, he seems to have made his home in “Seal Bay” Nature Park north of Comox. He is also making regular trips to the west side of Texada Island, presumably to forage.
With over 90 seal pups admitted into care of the Rescue Centre this summer, the team uses this information to ensure that the level of interaction and care given at the Rescue Centre does not impede the seal’s ability to thrive on its own once back in the wild. There is no greater feedback and inspiration for our Marine Mammal Rescue team than seeing an injured or abandoned seal pup, rehabilitated and thriving again in the wild.
For live updates on the seals in our care visit the Marine Mammal Facebook page or follow us on Twitter @VancouverAqua.