An adult male Guadalupe fur seal was spotted by Vancouver Aquarium in Ucluelet two weeks ago; a rare sighting in this area. Guadalupe fur seals are most typically seen off the coast of Baja, California.
Wendy Szaniszlo, research associate for Vancouver Aquarium determined the animal was in distress and required assistance. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), Parks Canada, and the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre were alerted.
The next day, the first attempt at rescue was unsuccessful as the animal swam away. Wild animals are experts at masking injuries and illnesses they may have to prevent looking like vulnerable prey to potential predators. However, the seal was seen again on a beach one day later in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
Officials from DFO and Parks Canada successfully corraled him into a kennel. He was then transported to Port Alberni where the Vancouver Aquarium rescue team was ready for a quick turnaround back to the ferry.
Vancouver Aquarium’s head veterinarian Dr. Martin Haulena noted the rarity of this event, “It’s extremely rare for these animals to strand in B.C.; we’ve never responded to one before.”
Since the seal’s admission to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, he was observed to be emaciated and dehydrated. He has been under strict observation and treated with both gastric protectants and antibiotics as well as subcutaneous fluids. “Although he is very lethargic and has no interest in food at this time, he’s responsive and aware of his surroundings” Dr. Haulena added.
Additionally, tissue samples from this seal will be sent to NOAA scientists in the U.S. to test for potential exposure to toxic algae. Data from this testing may take several months.