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If You See A Seal Or
Sea Lion In Distress

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What You Need To Do

If you see a harbour seal, sea lion or elephant seal that you believe is in distress:

1. Stay back
2. Keep people and pets away
3. Call the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-SEAL (7325). After hours, call our emergency line at 604-862-1647

Understanding The Situation

It's best to contact an experienced marine mammal rescue organization before attempting to rescue a seal, sea lion or any other marine mammal. Trained rescuers will assess the situation and determine whether intervention is necessary.

It' s normal for seals and sea lions (pinnipeds) to spend time on land, and so seeing one onshore doesn't necessarily mean a rescue is needed. 30-40 percent of their time may be spent ashore: resting; socializing; escaping predators; giving birth and nursing or warming themselves in the sun. Some species will mate on land as well.

If you see a pinniped on land, don't try to coax, pull or push it back into the water. Seals and sea lions are wild animals, and approaching too closely can cause them undue stress. If they feel threatened, they may bite (even small pups!). Keep them and yourself safe by staying back as far as possible (the Canadian Marine Mammal Regulations specify a distance of 100 metres).

It's also important to keep pets away. Dogs may inflict wounds on marine mammals, and there's a risk of disease transmission between the species.

 

What To Look For

While observing from a distance, try to collect the following information:

  • Does the animal have any visible wounds or swellings?
  • Is the animal breathing? Is it breathing through its nose or its mouth? Does the breathing sound congested or laboured?
  • Try to determine what species it may be by its size and fur colour.
  • Does it have a plump, rounded appearance, or does it appear thin?
  • Is the animal responsive? Is its behaviour active, aggressive, lethargic, vocal?

Call the Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-SEAL (7325) with the details, and we will instruct you on how best to proceed. If you're outside British Columbia, call your local animal rescue organization.

 
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