Keep Your Hands Off That Seal

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It’s pretty simple. If you see a seal, don’t touch it. If you think it needs help, call the experts.

That’s the message marine mammal experts have been trying to get out to the general public, but once again, someone didn’t get the memo.

This time it was a sport fisherman from Texas who plucked a newborn seal pup off a log in Port McNeill on Vancouver Island and then decided to take it on his boat and head for the mainland.

“I got a call from a lady in Texas saying her husband was up here fishing and said he has a seal pup on his boat,” Lindsaye Akhurst, manager at the Ocean Wise Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in Vancouver, Canada, told Vancouver Island’s Peninsula News Review. The wife had called to find out what her husband should feed the pup.

Akhurst told the woman that a seal pup’s diet is very specific and begged the woman to tell the husband not to feed it. Akhurst’s subsequent conversation with the fisherman was tense and difficult.

“He was very adamant that the animal did need assistance and that what he was doing was the correct thing to do,” she said.

The fisherman did not know that the British Columbia Marine Mammal Response Network had been observing the baby while it had been hauled out on the log. They had seen an adult seal nearby, and because seal mothers leave their pups on shore for up to 24 hours while they hunt for food, the observers were not worried about the baby’s welfare.

By the time the Texan’s wife had called the rescue center, the seal had been on the boat overnight and was getting dehydrated. “It’s probably going to die,” the man told Akhurst in a panic.

Akhurst convinced the fisherman to head to Campbell River, the nearest port, where volunteers met him in full personal protective gear, just in case seals can get Covid-19. The pup was driven to Nanaimo and flown to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in Vancouver.

Two weeks later, the seal, now named Zenon Samuel, is gaining weight and learning to fish. He will go back to the wild once he weighs at least 44 pounds.

Meanwhile, there’s a mother out there looking for her pup.

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