A harbour seal that was shot in the face and injured by birdshot is being treated at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.
The aquarium says 23 pellets were embedded in the female seal’s face when she was found, emaciated and lethargic, on Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach just over two week ago.
The wounds were beginning to heal, which leads veterinarians who treated the seal to believe she was shot many weeks ago.
The animal has been named Jessica Seal by the rescue centre, which doesn’t know yet whether she will regain enough eyesight to be released into the wild.
She is the fifth animal injured by gunshot that the aquarium has helped in recent years.
Last month, veterinarians from the aquarium performed surgery in Washington state on a pregnant seal that was shot in the head during a fishing derby.
Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the aquarium, says he fears conflicts between people and seals could increase because of suggestions that seals and sea lions are damaging salmon stocks, which are not supported by scientific evidence.
“The person who did this would have known they wouldn’t kill her with birdshot. It was intended to hurt her, and it did,” Haulena said in a news release. “The conflict on the water between humans and seals is not new – they want some of the same fish. I do worry people now feel more comfortable taking aim because they’ve been hearing seals are the bad guys, and they’re not.”
Veterinary specialists assessed the seal on Friday to quantify her remaining vision and to remove some damaged teeth.