Harbour seal pupping season is well underway in the Pacific Northwest, which means you’re more likely to see a seal pup alone on a beach.
Like, Catherine Dobrowolski, who was out for a walk at Victoria’s Ogden Point this weekend, when she noticed a seal pup alone at the breakwater.
“I thought he’s cute I guess his mom dropped him off and she’s getting food,” said Dobrowolski.
Harbour seals typically give birth and nurse on a beach, leaving their pups to rest while they forage.
“Often times it’s very natural for the pup to be on the beach by themselves,” said Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre (VAMMRC).
But as Catherine looked on, what she heard concerned her.
“People passed by and said ‘is he dead yet? He’s been there for a week,’ and didn’t seem that interested, and I knew I had to save him,” said Catherine.
She called VAMMRC who told her they’d attempted to rescue the pup Friday, but the tide beat them.
“I just put my fears aside, and knew that as the tide was coming up I had seconds to grab her, so I just did it,” said Catherine.
The seal pup was then hoisted by the SPCA in a crate, and whisked away in a Harbour Air floatplane to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in Vancouver.
But experts are warning, not all pups found alone on the beach need rescuing.
“So far this year, we’re not seeing an increase in numbers. We are seeing an increase in calls that are into the centre of people who are just learning what to do when they see a harbour seal,” said Akhurst.
And as we head into peak pupping season when the beaches are also the busiest, animal rescue centres are seeing an alarming trend of people, albeit with the best intentions, trying to save an animal that doesn’t actually need saving.
“One group of people ended up feeding a seal pup which is just two to three days old, a filet of fish,” said Akhurst.”
“These cases seem to be increasing. We do see a lot of human disturbances and interference on these animals. They’re obviously well-intentioned but the best things people can do is to call us.”
Because as cute and helpless as the seal babies may seem, they’re actually born to swim, survive, and even have teeth.
Experts say the next few weeks will be the busiest for births, and want to remind people to stay back, with the hopes that mom will come back.
Call 604-258-SEAL(7325) or the Fisheries and Oceans Canada incident reporting hotline at 1-800-465-4336 if you sea a sea pup alone and are concerned before you act.