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Increased number of abandoned seal pups on Vancouver's beaches an ‘alarming trend’ (PHOTOS)

If the mother of a seal pup sees a human or dog near their pup the mother will often abandon it

The Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre (VAMMRC) has reported an alarming trend of marine mammals becoming patients due to human interference.

While the rescue centre is equipped for on-site rehabilitation of sea turtles, sea lions, sea otters and more, right now the centre is most concerned over seals. Each year the centre rescues, rehabilitates, and releases over 100 marine mammals. This season though the centre has already admitted 14 patients.

Hey, beach-goer, leave them seals alone

“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.”

Akhurst says while it's understandable why someone might approach a seal pup due to their undeniable adorableness and especially if they look like they’re abandoned, they don’t all need rescuing.

“Harbour seal moms will leave pups on the beach to rest while they go forage,” Akhurst said. “The best thing you can do for any marine mammal you suspect needs help is to keep people and pets back and to call the VAMMRC.” 

The human interference the centre has reported includes members of the public picking up seals off the beach, letting off-leash dogs find pups, as well as petting and taking selfies with them. If the pup’s mother sees these interactions they will often abandon them.

Naming new patients

This year, seal pup patients are being named by the individuals who call in the pup and VAMMRC volunteers and staff. If the naming process stalls, the centre asks the individuals to choose the name of what they last ate, inspiring a variety of unique pup names with backstories.  The latest admissions of seal pups include Candy Corn on June 13 and Oatmeal on June 17. 

After being forced to temporarily close due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the VAMMRC has returned to normal operations. Under the Vancouver Aquarium’s new ownership, the centre has long-term funding needed to continue its rescue program the centre stated in a recent press release.

If you see a marine mammal in distress you can call the VAMMRC at 604-258-SEAL(7325) or Fisheries and Oceans Canada incident reporting hotline at 1-800-465-4336.