A moulting elephant seal was seen on a beach in the Greater Victoria area on March 20, 2019.

A moulting elephant seal was seen on a beach in the Greater Victoria area on March 20, 2019.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is reminding beachgoers to stay back from moulting elephant seals after one was seen on a Greater Victoria beach Wednesday.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has requested that people do not share the elephant seal’s exact location on social media due to reports of harassment during previous incidents.

Elephant seals can weigh up to 2,300 kilograms and can be as long as five metres. They are regularly seen on the B.C. coast, especially in the spring or summer months.

Most elephant seals seen off B.C. shores are adult males or juveniles, whereas females tend to remain further offshore. They can be spotted off Vancouver Island’s West Coast, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and off the Queen Charlotte Islands.

When elephant seals moult, they can appear to be sick. DFO said moulting is a natural process and should not be interfered with.

An elephant seal that is on land is usually moulting. All elephant seals spend one month a year on land to moult, undergoing what is called a “catastrophic moult, in which they shed all of their fur along with the underlying layer of skin.

For just over a month, the seal is confined to land and spends most of its time dozing and lazily flipping sand onto itself to stay cool. It doesn’t eat and may lose up to 25% of its body weight.

Anyone who sees an animal being harassed or injured, or a sick or injured animal exhibiting highly unusual behaviours can call DFO’s Observe, Record and Report 24-hour hotline at  1-800-465-4336.

CHEK News