Conservationists are reminding British Columbians not to try and rescue young animals they find in the wild who appear to be in distress.
It comes after a man tried to “rescue” a harbour seal pup he spotted in Port McNeill on Vancouver Island on the weekend of July 11.
The pup, dubbed Zenon Samuel, is now in the care of the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in Vancouver.
Manager Lindsaye Ackhurst told Global News that many animals that appear to be abandoned aren’t.
“We ask the public, if they are observing a pup that they feel is in distress or in need of response, the best thing to do is to call us,” she said.
“We’ll go through a series of questions and we ask that they keep people and pets away. If the mom is there, she’s not going to come back if there’s people or pets around the pup.
“It’s also very stressful for the pup, too.”
Ackhurst said the pup spent the night on the man’s boat, while rescue centre staff spoke with his wife, who was out of country.
He eventually agreed to transfer it to an animal rescue group in Campbell River, who arranged its transportation to Vancouver, she said.
Disturbing a marine mammal is a federal offence, but Fisheries and Oceans Canada said it would not pursue charges against the man and was instead focusing on education.
The animal was about five days old, still had its umbilical cord and was dehydrated and malnourished when it arrived at the rescue centre.
“He’s recently started fish school,” she said.
“We’re teaching him how to catch fish, and the next step for him is to be placed in the pre-release pool and released back into the wild.”
Ackhurst said the centre has already received about 400 calls about harbour seals this year, and is currently caring for 50.
She said the province is currently in the middle of seal pupping season, which means people may spot the young animals out and about, and sometimes alone, but they shouldn’t interfere.
Anyone who spots a marine animal they think is in distress is urged to report it to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-4336 or Fisheries and Oceans Canada at 1-800-465-4336.