Digby youth carry seal off beach and into the water of the Joggin

Jonathan
Jonathan Riley
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[Updated July 14 after discussion with DFO]

A Department of Fisheries and Ocean spokesperson says they’d prefer if people left seals alone.

Three well-intentioned Digby youth carried a seal pup in a blanket from high on the beach at the south end of town to the water of the Joggin on Saturday, July 12.

“They were lucky,” said David Jennings of DFO. “Seals may look like pets, but they are wild animals and should be left alone.

“If they’re cornered or feel threatened, they may respond by attacking and their bites can be serious, requiring medical attention such as antibiotics and stitches.”

Crystal Harris says her two boys Cole, 10, and Carter, 8, along with their friend Billy Tan, 9, were concerned for the young seal and thought it was injured.

Cole rode his bike home to tell his mother they had found a seal and its arm was broken because it was trying to move and couldn't use it.

He wanted to call 911 first but then suggested his mother call family friend and veterinarian Neil Pothier.

Cole then rushed out of the house with his mother’s camera asking her to call Pothier as he shut the door.

Instead Harris followed her son to the beach.

She says the seal’s fur was completely dry on one side and it was trying to wiggle its way back to the water but the tide was on its way out and it had a hard time moving along the mud and rocks.

She sent Cole to her car for a large blanket and she rolled the seal up in it.

The boys grabbed a corner of the blanket and carried the seal through the mud to the waters edge and put the blanket into the water.

“The seal wiggled its way out of the blanket and started swimming right away,” says Harris. “After getting its head wet a few times the seal went under the water for about 30 seconds and swam further out with ease.”

Jennings says mother seals normally leave their offspring on the shore about two to three weeks after birth.

The young seals remain on their own on shore for another two to three weeks and shed their white coat for a grey spotted one.

Once they have used up their reserves of fat, they make their way into the water to feed.

Jennings says it’s normal for young seals to rest up on shore for a couple of days at a time.

“It’s actually illegal to disturb seals under the Marine Mammals Regulations including allowing an unleashed pet near a seal,” he said. “If it’s causing a problem, like interactions with dogs, or if it’s injured or suffering, then we ask people to contact us and we’ll handle it.”

jriley@digbycourier.ca

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  • Stacy
    July 17, 2014 - 20:39

    The seal woulda been dead by the time DFO arrived. And I am sure if they actually showed up they woulda got a blanket and moved it to the water. Good job boys!

  • Marilyn S Thiffault
    July 16, 2014 - 12:43

    While I understand the caution regarding the handling of wild animals and the potential danger involved, I can only applaud the compassion of these kids in wanting to return the seal to its environment. Too many times we hear of helpless animals being abused instead of assisted. Bravo guys, you are 3 of the good ones.

  • Stacey Bieren
    July 14, 2014 - 10:07

    I love their good intentions, however they may have done more harm than good. Mother seals leave babies alone onshore to sleep while they forage for food because pups cannot swim for long periods of time, and it is safer for them to remain onshore. In future, the best thing to do would be to give it a wide berth and leave it alone so as not to stress it. The mother will return for her pup. There is quite a bit of information and research that can be found online if you have questions and cannot reach a Fishery Officer @ Digby Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Conservation and Protection: 245-2544. In the meantime, here is a DFO bulletin from the Pacific Region with instructions if you encounter a seal on the beach: http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/.../seals-phoques-bull3-eng.pdf Additionally, the local MARS group has instructions and contact information on their website: http://www.marineanimals.ca/str.../whatisastranding_eng.html