Seals often leave their pups for up to 48 hours, it may not be abandoned. Photo by MARS

That seal pup may not be an orphan

Birthing season for seals is well underway and seal pups showing up on local shores appear to be abandoned, but most are not really alone.

The mother seal may be temporarily away foraging for food and will return to her pup.

“A mother seal has to feed regularly and can leave her newborn pup for an extended period, sometimes for up to 48 hours,” said Warren Warttig, MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre president and professional biologist. “The newborn pup may not be an orphan. And, if through good intentions, the pup is taken to a wildlife rescue centre – it’s a kidnapping.”

Each year MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre receives calls regarding abandoned newborn seal pups, several so far in 2017.

A pup must be cared for until it can be transferred to the Vancouver Aquarium where it will be cared for until its release. Last year, MARS rescued and transferred six seal pups.

The most recent arrival to the MARS Wildlife Rescue Centre was determined to be a kidnap victim.

“If you see a seal pup you believe is abandoned or orphaned call the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue at 604-258-7325. Aquarium staff will contact MARS Wildlife Rescue if a rescue is required and we’ll respond,” said Reg Westcott, MARS animal care supervisor. “We will make sure the seal pup is healthy and will collaborate with the Vancouver Aquarium to care for the pup until it is ready for transfer.”

MARS, a licensed and regulated facility, has provided rescues, recovery, rehabilitation and release for injured and orphaned wildlife in central and northern Vancouver Island since 1995.

The new wildlife hospital on Williams Beach Road in Merville opened in May with additional recovery and rehabilitation facilities now under construction or completed by MARS, a volunteer-powered, donor-funded organization.