A juvenile elephant seal has hauled out near the mouth of Glenlyon Creek to begin molting its fur. DFO officials urge the public to avoid disturbing the animal

A juvenile elephant seal has hauled out near the mouth of Glenlyon Creek to begin molting its fur. DFO officials urge the public to avoid disturbing the animal

Elephant seal hauls out in Port Hardy

PORT HARDY-DFO officials urge public to give animal its space during catastrophic moult

PORT HARDY—A juvenile elephant seal has made a temporary home on a grassy bank below the Glen Lyon Inn, but Fisheries officers are urging the public not to approach or interfere with the animal.

The young seal, believed to be a male, is undergoing a catastrophic moult, during which it will shed its entire skin in a process that can take a month to complete.

While the seal may appear unhealthy or act sickly, the behaviour is normal.

“We’re asking people to stay away and leave it alone,” Port Hardy DFO officer Mandy Norrish said. “It just needs to rest. It takes a significant amount of energy to go through that process.”

The elephant seal sighting was first called in to DFO Sunday, May 25. It was visible from the inn’s restaurant windows after hauling out along the bank of the stream that enters Hardy Bay next to the inn.

The seal was gone the next morning, but returned to the spot shortly before noon that day.

Norrish and fellow fisheries officer Kelly Aitken visited the site and posted notices alerting the public to the animal and its condition.

Literature on the moulting process suggests the seal will continue to return to the same or a nearby location, and will spend most of a month on land completing the moulting process.

During this time, elephant seals do not eat and may lose up to 25 per cent of their body weight. That, combined with the eventual loss of large patches of fur, can lead people to believe the animal is sick or in distress.

“But you shouldn’t try to help or approach the seal, and the same goes for any marine mammal,” said Aitken. “They’re not pets; they have sharp teeth, so don’t go touching them. It’s better for people and for the animals if you give them their space.”

To report a marine mammal disturbance or harassment, call the DFO hotline at 1-800-465-4336. To report a seal you believe is injured or abandoned, call the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue line at 1-604-258-SEAL.