Thursday, July 28, 2005

It's finally beach season.

Every night this week, snorkelling along the rocks at Bowen Bay, the sea is pretty warm and there is lots to look at including big schools of perch, huge moonjellies (the size of dinner plates), starfish, flounders and crabs galore. Lots of plankton in the water too and reportedly good bioluminesence at night.

At Bowen Bay the last couple of days there has been a seal pup on the beach. Yeserday its mom was checking in on it and it left on its own around 9:00 pm. Today I didn't see the mom, but it left on the high tide also around 9:00pm. It's hard to tell if the seal is a little malnourished or not, but it is leaving the beach every night and the mom is around. Alistair Westcott, the island vet posted this advice to would-be rescuers on the Bowen Online forum today:

We have been receiving a lot of calls regarding seal pups on beaches around Bowen. It is common for mothers to leave their pups on beaches for up to 12hrs at a time (regardless of the heat) while they forage for food. These pups just lie around and wait for Mom to return. Usually Mom drops them off at daycare (the beach) in the early morning and returns at certain times during the day. Mom will generally not return until much later if a lot of people are crowding around and fussing over junior.

Abandoned pups or sick pups are rare; they usually look obviously sick, thin, may have external wounds and will not respond vigorously when touched. Many times it will appear as if the pup has been on the beach for several days (only because they go off at night and then are dropped off on the same beach early the next morning). The best thing to do is leave them alone, keep dogs away and check back once the sun goes down. If the pup is still in the same spot after dark then there may be a problem. Call us then, or the Vancouver aquarium SEAL rescue dept. at 604 258-SEAL (7325). There are times when they need to be transported to the rescue facility."

What I've learned is that it's important not to touch the seals and if in doubt, check with the Vancouver Aquarium before you do anything to disturb a seal pup. Usually they are on the beach for a reason and helping them can sometimes be the worst thing to do, especially if the pup is in no obvious distress (bleeding, having a hard time breathing, etc.). They spend a lot of time asleep on the beach. This should not be confused with being dead. They are babies. Babies tire easily, especially when a lot of people are crowding around them, as anyone with kids knows.

The seal at Bowen Bay is in a risky place as there are so many people around. I'm willing to be that when the mom takes the baby in in the morning no one's about and she can't figure out where all these folks come from. It's like leaving your three month old at The Snug all day, while you go off to work. It upsets a lot of people.

Hopefully this one will do fine, but if you're down at Bowen Bay and you see it, give it a lot of space.