The Vancouver Aquarium is currently rehabilitating a one-year-old harbour seal after it was seriously injured with a birdshot.
The young seal was rescued from Kits Beach on February 18 by the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre who found her emaciated and lethargic. The team assessed her condition and determined that she was shot many weeks ago, as the wounds were already beginning to heal over the 23 pellets embedded in her face.
Vancouver Is Awesome spoke to Dr. Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium, who explained what they will have to do in order to rehabilitate their newest rescue, named Jessica Seal by the Rescue Centre.
“She’s completely blind in one eye, but we have yet to determine how much sight she has in the other eye,” he explained.”She currently has compromised vision in her healthier eye, and therefore she isn’t able to track fish. As a result, we are giving her anti-inflammatories in order to help bring down the swelling.”
Dr. Haulena also noted that there is a chance that Jessica seal may not be able to return to the ocean.
“It really depends on whether she’ll be able to track fish on her own and respond to stimuli in her environment. For example, after she begins to heal we can change her surroundings and observe how she responds. We’ll also try to have her track some live fish on her own.”
“We have no way of knowing who did this,” he said. “I can tell you that she’s been suffering for several weeks, and we don’t know if she’s going to recover her eyesight enough to be released.”
On Friday, veterinary specialists assessed the animal under anaesthetic to determine how much vision she has remaining, and to remove some of her damaged teeth.
“The person who did this would have known they wouldn’t kill her with birdshot. It was intended to hurt her, and it did,” said Haulena. “The conflict on the water between humans and seals is not new — they want some of the same fish. I do worry people now feel more comfortable taking aim because they’ve been hearing seals are the bad guys, and they’re not.”
Jessica seal is the fifth animal that has been rescued by the centre in the past few years. Last month, Vancouver Aquarium veterinarians travelled to Washington State to perform surgery on a pregnant seal shot in the head during a fishing derby.
If you see a marine mammal that you believe is in distress: stay back, keep people and pets away, call the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-SEAL (7325), or the DFO hotline at 1-800-465-4336.
You can help out by donating to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.