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Seal pupping season is in full swing and the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre already has seven seal pup patients in their care. Community involvement plays an important role in seal pup rescues and it’s important that you take these precautions if you spot a seal in distress:
Stay back — do not attempt to touch or pick-up the animal
If you see a seal that you feel is in need of help, do not attempt to coax, pull, or push it back into the water. These are wild animals that can be aggressive — even small pups may bite if they feel threatened. It’s always best to stay back and observe from a distance in order to keep them as well as yourself safe. It’s also important to keep pets away, dogs may inflict wounds on marine mammals and there is a risk of disease transmission between the species.
It’s not unusual to see a seal pup on the beach resting. Seal pups are born on land and weigh around 10 kilos at birth, they can’t thermoregulate as well when they are little so they stay on land to sleep and rest while the mom goes out to forage. Harbour seal moms produce milk high in fat and need to continuously feed in order to keep up milk production. Maternal separation, possibly due to tidal changes or as a result of inexperienced mothers, is most often the reason pups find themselves stranded.
If you see a pup alone on the beach , make sure you assess the area — you might just see the mom’s head above the water nearby, in this case the pup might not need rescuing. It’s always best to call the Rescue Centre where trained rescuers can assess the situation in order to determine whether or not to intervene.
How to make sure your help is helpful:
Take a picture of the stranded seal. Do this from a safe distance away as to not disturb the pup. Send the photo to the Rescue Centre (rescue[at]vanaqua.org); they’ll be able to tell from the pictures if the pup needs rescuing.
Let beachgoers/bystanders know the Rescue Centre team has been notified.
If it’s a busy beach, help with crowd control.
Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, presented by Port Metro Vancouver and supported by Teekay Shipping, is a hospital for sick, injured or orphaned marine mammals. The Rescue Centre rescues stranded marine mammals and rehabilitates them for release back into their natural habitat. If you see a marine mammal that you believe is in distress, contact us at 604-258-SEAL (7325). Visit our site for more information.