The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre (VAMMRC) says “pupping season” is well underway and residents should not approach seal pups if they come across one.
Vancouver resident Tristan Huff recently helped reunite a baby seal with its mom after he spotted the pup bobbing under a dock in Coal Harbour.
On Monday night, Huff said he heard a noise and to him, it looked like the pup was having trouble breathing due to the seaweed and garbage also sitting on top of the water.
“I noticed it was sinking and it was trying to gasp for air and (I thought) ‘what can I do’?” he recalled. Huff managed to lure the baby seal over to the edge and then grab it from the water.
“I pulled it out of the water like it was my own child. It was amazing, its black eyes looking up at me.”
Huff said the baby still had the umbilical cord attached to it.
He managed to contact the BC SPCA and then the Rescue Centre and they told Huff it’s best to leave the pup there as the mom will very likely come back for it.
“I love animals so much. I’m very spiritual. It would kill me to see any animal hurt,” he said.
As dark fell, Huff eventually had to leave the small seal and asked staff at the Coal Harbour Marina to keep watch over the seal during the night.
When he returned in the morning to check, he was told the seal’s mom came to collect it.
Staff at the VAMMRC said they are already seeing increased instances of human interference, compared to other years, when it comes to marine mammals.
“Harbour seal pupping season is well underway along B.C.’s coast,” said Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the VAMMRC.
“This is an exciting time of year, and it can be thrilling to see marine mammals in the wild, but we also need to ensure we are not interfering with a marine mammal who may be exhibiting normal behaviour. We have noticed an alarming trend of patients being admitted to the VAMMRC due to human disturbance this year so far.”
She said they understand why someone might be inclined to approach seal pups — they look adorable and can appear abandoned when seen without mom — but not all pups on the beach need rescuing. Harbour seal moms will leave pups on the beach to rest while they go forage, Akhurst explained.
The best thing anyone can do if they suspect a marine mammal needs help is to keep people and pets back and call VAMMRC at 604-258-SEAL(7325) or the Fisheries and Oceans Canada incident reporting hotline at 1-800-465-4336.