‘Not all seal pups you see alone need to be rescued’

Scooped seals fare well so far at Vancouver rescue centre

A quartet of seal pups call Vancouver home after being scooped from the shores of the south Island.

Bazzite was first noticed on a rocky outcrop near Sunny Lane in Oak Bay as a newborn. In the method prescribed by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, he was under surveillance for a bit before Oak Bay police were called in to package him up for the trip to the centre for health reasons.

Maternal separation, the primary reason most of the young Harbour seals are in care there, is listed as young Bazzite’s official intake reason.

RELATED: Oak Bay police officers rescue baby seal found on rocky shoreline

Bazzite was rescued from Oak Bay June 21 and arrived the next day via Harbour Air, which donates cargo space for transporting marine mammals to the centre.

“A large percentage of our animals do come from Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. It allows us to get the animals much faster,” says a thankful Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

Bazzite was thin and still had his umbilical cord making him fewer than three days old when he arrived.

“He seems to be doing alright. He’s got a couple things going on. He’s a little quiet at times so we’re monitoring him quite closely,” says Akhurst. Bazzite has gained a little weight, had clean bloodwork and is getting daily fluids for dehydration.

Another near-newborn, Garnet was brought in from near a Victoria-area Canadian Coast Guard station. A staff member there spotted it there, and alerted the Vancouver marine centre. The next day when he went on shift, Garnet was still there, his mom nowhere in sight. He joined the patient list June 20.

“He’s keeping his food down, but he’s just very lethargic so he’s another one we’ve been keeping a very close eye on,” Akhurst says. He’s also on antibiotics and fluid therapy. While he’s gained a little weight, he “lacks spunk” shown by other seal pups his age, she added.

A pair of seals from Sooke, who are a little older and bigger, made their way to Vancouver June 24 after a few days at the Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre on Salt Spring.

Neapolitan and Banana Split are bigger animals and doing well. “They seem to be bright, alert responsive to their caretakers at this point,” Akhurst says.

The locals are just four of the many expected seal pups to come in to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre this season. They cared for 200 last year.

Once an animal is stabilized and eating fish, staff and volunteers teach them to fish.

When they hit a certain weight and ability the young seals go into a larger pool. There, “they’ll forage on their own and compete with other seals,” Akhurst says.

At an average two months, when they hit the 20 to 25 kg weight and can forage on their own and are free from infectious disease, there’s talk of release.

“The goal of course is to always release the animals,” Akhurst says.

The rescue centre selects quieter, protected areas where there’s a known food source for group releases.

The goal, however, is to not have healthy pups in care. The last days of spring and early summer see a surge in pups, on land, docks and populated areas which can cause concern.

“It is seal pupping season, it is the time of year where seals are giving birth,” Akhurst says. “Moms do leave their pups for an extended period of time while they go out and forage. Not all seal pups you see alone need to be rescued.”

However, human interaction, tidal changes and weather can all separate a mother from a pup.

“We ask people if they’re seeing a seal that they feel is need of some assistance, to call us,” Akhurst says.

Potentially have someone keep people and pets away from a baby while making the call, and send images and videos to the centre to give an idea of how healthy the young one is.

“If we notice in those pictures that they’re very thin, look injured in any way, we’ll expedite the rescue,” Akhurst says. “If it looks in good condition … we might just leave it and see if the mom does come back. The best chance for the animal to be healthy is to be with its mom.”

Call the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-SEAL (7325) to report a potential marine mammal in distress. Find the centre online at https://www.facebook.com/vammrc and rescue.ocean.org.

What’s in a name

Each year both marine animal care centres have themes for naming the mammals they help. This year the Vancouver facility’s theme is gemstones (Bazzite and Garnet) while the Salt Spring facility is ice cream (Banana Split and Neapolitan).

“We are a non profit organization that does run hugely on our volunteers. We have a strong volunteer base of over 300 people and small staff of under 15,” Akhurst says. “It’s nice to be able to get them involved in some of the things we’re doing and they love naming the animals so it’s neat to be able to have that for them.”


 

cvanreeuwyk@oakbaynews.com

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