The seal pup rescue season has started earlier than usual for the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, with a tiny, but feisty harbour seal pup arriving last week.
The premature male pup was found alone by a member of the public near a dock in Prince Rupert. They rescued the little seal after he appeared to be struggling to get out of the water.
This year, the Centre’s naming theme is ocean-themed puns and staff decided Dwayne ‘The Rockfish’ Johnson was a good fit for the feisty pup.
Lindsaye Akhurst, manager of the Rescue Centre, said the pup’s May 1 rescue is the earliest on record for the Centre.
“The northern B.C. population of harbour seals does start pupping season earlier than on the south coast, so it’s not completely unpredictable, but this is certainly an early start for us," she said.
She said Dwayne showed signs of being born prematurely, including having his umbilical cord still attached and the soft fur of a premature pup (called lanugo).
It took many helping hands to transport Dwayne to the Centre located in the Port of Vancouver. Despite his epic journey, Dwayne is doing well, receiving regular fluids and nutrition, and showing quick signs of improvement.
Akhurst advised members of the public should always call the Centre before taking action to rescue a marine mammal they believe is in distress.
“This is the start of pupping season in British Columbia, so at this time of year, you’ll sometimes see newborn pups left to rest while their mothers forage for food,” she explained.
“The mother will usually come back. We ask those who find a seal pup not to touch it and to keep their pets away.
“Call us, we’ll assess the animal, then decide if a rescue is needed.”
Members of the public are invited to symbolically “adopt” Dwayne, which will help fund ongoing rehabilitation efforts at the Centre.
The Centre rescues, rehabilitates and releases about 150 animals each year; while most of the patients are harbour seals, the veterinary team has provided medical treatment to elephant seals, sea otters, sea lions, whales, dolphins and porpoises, most of which are successfully released back into nature.
If you see a marine mammal that you believe is in distress, the Centre's advice is to stay back, keep people and pets away and call the Centre at 604-258-SEAL (7325), or the DFO hotline at 1-800-465-4336.