Vancouver Aquarium releases rescued northern fur seal, takes in sea lion pup

Vancouver Aquarium releases rescued northern fur seal, takes in sea lion pup

Rehabilitated northern fur seal Flores doesn’t look back as he is returned to the ocean near Ucluelet, B.C. Credit: Wendy Szaniszlo

The Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre has released a rehabilitated northern fur seal back into the wild for the first time in the centre’s history.

Flores was rescued off the west coast of Vancouver Island in January. At the time, he was emaciated and had an injured eye. On Monday, a team flew to Ucluelet to release him back into the wild.

“From the day of his rescue Flores was feisty, and he remained that way right up to his release, which is great,” Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the rescue centre, said in a statement.

“We like to see that; it’s a good sign for his survival that he’s not overly friendly to humans and was ready to go.”

The northern fur seal was taken to Little Beach in Ucluelet after a quick flight donated by Harbour Air. The rescue centre said he bolted for the water without looking back. He has been outfitted with a satellite tag so the team can track his journey.

Northern Fur Seals are found in the Pacific Ocean with their range extending from Japan, through the Bering Sea then down to California.

They have breeding colonies on the Commander, Pribolof and Bogoslof Islands. The species has a threatened wildlife status.

Later that day, the rescue centre admitted a newborn female Stellar sea lion pup. She was rescued from remote McInnes Island off British Columbia’s central coast. The pup has been named Bella Bella after the town closest to hr rescue site. The aquarium said she was lethargic, minimally responsive and without her mom when she was found by a lighthouse keeper on the island. She was tekn by helicopter from the island’s Coast Guard station to Bella Bella, then to Vancouver by Pacific Coastal Airlines.

“She was in extremely poor condition when she arrived; we were worried about her,” Dr. Barbara Linnehan, veterinary fellow at the Vancouver Aquarium, said in a statement.

Linnehan said she estimates the pup to be about a week old.

“Since being admitted, she’s been under intensive observation, treated with intravenous and subcutaneous fluids, gastric protectants and antibiotics, and fed specially-designed formula with both a tube and a bottle. She’s much brighter and more alert now, but she has a long road ahead,” Linnehan said.

The Stellar sea lion is the biggest of all sea lion species. It is found along B.C.’s rocky coast. It is listed as a Species of Special Concern under the Species at Risk Act.

One-week-old Steller sea lion Bella Bella is the newest patient at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Credit: Vancouver Aquarium

Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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