Swimmers and sunbathers who are heading to Gonzales Beach to escape the heat are being asked to stay away from a moulting elephant seal.
On Sunday, the City of Victoria tweeted that a seal was moulting on the beach. The city asked residents to use caution and give the elephant seal space.
A seal has returned to Gonzales Beach to molt. Please use caution and give the seal space. pic.twitter.com/7TRRUQCEm1
— City of Victoria (@CityOfVictoria) June 17, 2018
Paul Cottrell, a marine mammals co-ordinator with the Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), said Monday that the department believes it is a different animal from the seal that was seen at the same beach in April and May.
The DFO is monitoring the situation, and is putting up containment areas and signage where required. The city has also put up signs telling people not to disturb wildlife in the area and to keep dogs away from the animal.
The seal was seen swimming in the water near the beach on Monday.
Elephant seals are not uncommon on the B.C. coast in the spring and summer months. They can be spotted off Vancouver Island’s west coast, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and off the Queen Charlotte Islands.
Most elephant seals seen off B.C. shores are adult males or juveniles, whereas females tend to remain further offshore.
An elephant that is sickly-looking is most likely moulting. All elephant seals spend one month a year on land to moult; they undergo 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 per cent of its body weight.
Elephant seals that are moulting may appear slow and harmless but can move quickly and can be dangerous if threatened. If anyone sees an animal being harassed or injured or an injured or sick animal exhibiting highly unusual behaviour, they are asked to call DFO’s Observe, Record and Report 24-hour hotline at 1-800-465-4336.