Local residents did the right thing contacting the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre when they found this injured harbour seal on Columbia Beach March 31.

Distressed seal found on Columbia Beach near Parksville – residents did all they could

Lesson were learned, response was swift, but seal ultimately died

A local resident says she learned important lessons when she and her husband found an injured harbour seal on Columbia Beach last month.

“We live on the water and we saw it on the beach right in front of our house,” said French Creek resident Janet Sawatsky, explaining “it was an adult seal in obvious distress.”

They called around and it took a bit to reach the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, which co-ordinated with a local biologist and asked them to keep an eye on it.

“Luckily the beach is closed to dogs right now due to the Brant migration or there would have been a few ugly seal/dog interactions,” she said. “They are very strong and will protect themselves if approached by dogs or humans especially if they are sick, injured and vulnerable.”

“They sent a biologist out — I was very surprised by all of this effort,” she said.

The seal just lay there and let them approach very close, she said. It moved around some with the tide, but didn’t leave and after a 48-hour observation period, the experts decided to come from Vancouver on April 2 to take it back to their facility.

“My husband helped and they managed to get this huge thing, 300 pounds or more, off the beach.”

The seal “was documented as an older seal based on the condition of his teeth,” said Charlene Chiang, director of communications with the centre.

“While the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre’s team did everything they could to rehabilitate it, in the end, he did not pull through.”

Chiang said residents did the right thing, pointing out the centre’s goal “is to rescue, rehabilitate and release stranded, injured or ill marine mammals.”

The centre usually focuses on pups or immature animals and requires Department of Fisheries and Oceans involvement for adult seals, which they did in this case.

Contact the rescue centre at 1-604-258-SEAL (7325), e-mail rescue@vanaqua.org or visit www.vanaqua.org, under the “Act” tab for more information.

Sawatsky pointed out the centre accepts donations.

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