Fort Rupert Elementary students cheer as Pegasus hops into the water at Airport Beach after being released from her crate by Lindsaye Akhurst of Vancouver Aquarium Friday

Seals bring squeals

Pair of rehabilitated seals releases on the North Island by Vancouver Aquarium staff.

More than 80 North Island school children got their science lesson at area beaches last Friday, when a pair of rescued harbour seal pups were returned from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre and released in Port Hardy and Port Alice.

Pegasus, a female seal rescued this summer near Sointula, and Titan, a male discovered at the Jeune Landing dryland sort and rescued with the assistance of loggers, were flown to Port Hardy by Pacific Coastal Airlines. They were accompanied by Lindsaye Akhurst and Taryn Robinson of the Vancouver Aquarium, which operates the rescue centre.

The animals had been provided food, conditioning and, when necessary, medical attention from aquarium staff since being found emaciated and apparently abandoned by area residents.

“This is where they’ve come from,” Akhurst said when asked why it was important the seals be returned to North Vancouver Island for release. “They are possibly familiar with the area. There’s also a genetic difference between them and the animals in the Vancouver area. We want to give them the best chance at survival.”

After being unloaded at Port Hardy Airport, the seals were driven a short distance to Airport Beach, where 38 Fort Rupert Elementary School students and assorted teachers and parent chaperones waited on a rainy, blustery day.

Akhurst and Robinson were accompanied by local Fisheries and Oceans Canada officers Kelly Aitkan and Natasha Dickinson, who helped carry Pegasus to the beach in a standard portable dog kennel as the kids squealed in delight.

The youths pointed and laughed as Pegasus hopped straight from the kennel to the foamy waves before swimming away into the surf.

“It’s a neat opportunity for the kids,” said Akhurst. “It’s not something they get to see very often. They get a chance to see them up close and personal, and to be able to see them hopefully thrive in the wild.”

It was also a chance to reinforce lessons, as was the case roughly an hour later when the entourage arrived at Jeune Landing with Titan. The entire student body of Sea View Elementary Junior Secondary School — 45 strong — got a quick primer from Aitken before Titan’s kennel was opened and he splashed into the waters of Neuroutsis Inlet.

“If you saw a baby seal on the beach, would you try to feed it and pet it?” Aitken asked.

“No!” the kids replied en masse.

“Would you tell a grown-up?”

“Yeah!”

Many Sea View students are particularly knowledgeable about handling sea life. Students at the school gained attention in March 2011 when they self-published a booklet titled Kaouk the Trailer Park Sea Lion, the story of a Steller Sea Lion found in a local trailer park in December 2010 before being rehabilitate and released by the MMRC.

“This is a chance for them to connect to nature,” school principal D’Arcy Deacon said of the students. “Environmental education is a big part of our learning at Sea View School, and this gives them a chance to connect to some things that have happened here in the past.”

Unlike Pegasus, who made for the open water and never looked back, Titan circled back to the beach on a couple of occasions, rolling in kelp near the rocks and lifting his head to get a look at the massed schoolkids before turning to swim away.

“Both of these animals were brought in very emaciated,” said Akhurst. “Titan was found just round the corner here, at the log sort. As you can see, he’s about four times as big as he was when he came to us.”

 

Just Posted

North Island Midget Eagles get their feet wet against Alberni Valley Bulldogs

The North Island Midget Eagles travelled down island to face off against the Bulldogs.

Council agrees to purchase emergency generator for Civic Centre

The loan will have to be repaid within five years, with no rights of renewal.

Candidates illuminate different visions of Port Alice’s future

The candidates were asked if they believed the pulp mill could run again.

VIDEO: Terry Fox Run returns to Port Hardy for the first time since 2016

All told, Port Hardy’s Terry Fox Run raised $2,200.30 with more still coming in.

2019 FEDERAL ELECTION: Meet the candidates for the North Island-Powell River riding

In an effort to inform the North Island-Powell River riding constituents, we… Continue reading

‘I shouldn’t have done it,’ Trudeau says of brownface photo

Trudeau says he also wore makeup while performing a version of a Harry Belafonte song

35 of 87 dogs in 2018 Williams Lake seizure were euthanized due to behavioural issues, BCSPCA confirm

The dogs did not respond to the behaviour modification and remained terrified of humans

B.C. ‘tent city’ disputes spark call for local government autonomy

UBCM backs Maple Ridge after province overrules city

B.C. drug dealers arrested after traffic stop near Banff turns into helicopter pursuit

Antonio Nolasco-Padia, 23, and Dina Anthony, 55, both well-known to Chilliwack law enforcement

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

B.C. bus crash survivor petitions feds to fix road where classmates died

UVic student’s petition well over halfway to 5k signature goal

Most Read