Emerson the ‘real rascal’ elephant seal swims hundreds of kilometres back to Victoria

Click to play video: 'Elephant seal’s return to Victoria area raises safety concerns'
Elephant seal’s return to Victoria area raises safety concerns
'Emerson' the elephant seal might have to be re-located once again from his preferred moulting spot in the Victoria area, after returning yet again. Kylie Stanton reports the Department of Fisheries and Oceans says too many irresponsible people are getting too close to him – Apr 17, 2024

Despite the efforts of officials and volunteers, Emerson the elephant seal just loves his adoring public too much to stay away.

His latest trip involved swimming hundreds of kilometres in just five days to land back on the beaches of Victoria.

“(He’s) an animal we know well,” Paul Cottrell with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada told Global News. “We even know he was born in the U.S., just across the border at Deception Pass Park. And his mom ended up giving birth right in this park.”

Cottrell said after three or four weeks, the weaning period was over, and his mom took off.

“So this young pup was looked after by volunteers for quite a while,” he said. “And Emerson has kind of grown attached to people. And now two years later, he’s weighing over 500 pounds and he’s taken a liking to Victoria.”

Story continues below advertisement

Cottrell said they first moved him away from people in 2023 but he returned within a couple of days. They moved him again but he came back so Cottrell said they let him moult in Oak Bay in June.

“And then he showed up in Victoria Harbour last September as well,” he said. “And it was in a real populated area, just like Oak Bay. He was crossing the road in the parking lot. And then this last September, he was actually in Songhees Walkway, which is right in the inner harbour in Victoria.”

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

Cottrell said that Emerson was behaving but attracting a lot of attention and the decision was made to move him again.

Click to play video: 'Emerson the elephant seal returns to Saanich'
Emerson the elephant seal returns to Saanich

Officials and volunteers decided to move him again to Nootka Sound. But again, he showed up back in Victoria.

Story continues below advertisement

So another trip moved him to Barkley Sound, just south of Ucluelet, hundreds of kilometres away.

“And he came back within four or five days, which is incredible,” Cottrell said.

Now volunteers are monitoring Emerson around the clock and caution tape has been erected to keep out the public.

He will continue to moult, which means he will shed his skin.

“He’s really been a thorn in our side, and he’s kind of analogous to Neil the seal situation in Australia,” Cottrell said. “And we joke that these two elephant seals are vying for media elephant seal of the year, and we’re hoping that Emerson does not win.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. wilderness guide films elephant seal birth'
B.C. wilderness guide films elephant seal birth

Cottrell said while many people like to go and see Emerson, he is a big animal and has crossed roads in the past and laid out in parking lots.

Story continues below advertisement

“Dogs have come up to Emerson, and we’ve unfortunately had people get close up touching him,” he added. “It’s just he’s a wild animal and he can bite. He’s quite docile, but of course, he is unpredictable as well.”

But if Emerson can’t behave, or the public can’t, Cottrell said they will move him for the fifth time.

He believes Emerson will keep coming back every year but when he weighs over 1,000 pounds that is going to be a challenge.

“We’re hoping that we’re doing our best to break this bond of Emerson with people,” Cottrell said. “But that’s difficult. And I think as he gets older, hopefully that that happens.”

Cottrell said many have a soft spot for Emerson but they are trying to do what’s best for the animal so he can have a long, healthy life.

“He’s a real rascal,” he said. “And, you know, we love him, but we hate him too because he just keeps coming back.”

Sponsored content