FACEBOOK PHOTO/JAN WHITEHEAD A seal bite from the incident in the Broughton Archipelago. Three of the four kayakers were attacked by the seal.

Seal attacks kayakers in the Broughton Archipelago

“It has to be one chance in a million of this happening.”

Four kayakers were reminded of how unpredictable wildlife can be after they were attacked by a seal during a recent trip to the Broughton Archipelago.

Jan and Warrick Whitehead, from Duncan, set out with their friends Jim and Marlene Harper for a 15-day trip kayaking and camping throughout the islands.

After camping overnight on Owl Island at a Provincial Park campsite, the group packed up and set out to paddle to Insect Island on the morning of July 9.

“We saw no seals as we paddled toward the Canoe Islands and through the fairly narrow short passage, until Warrick noticed some water motion ahead of him as we exited the passage, thinking it was a fish,” said Jan in an email interview with the Gazette.

She said a single seal then leapt out of the water onto Jim’s kayak and proceeded to grab him under the arm and pull at him, which upset his kayak and tipped him into the water.

“There was a great fear that the seal would continue the attack on him as he struggled beside his kayak. I proceeded to paddle to his side to try and prevent any other attack and to calm Jim and let him know we were there for support.”

After Warrick paddled to the other side of Jim to help him, the seal leapt onto Warrick’s kayak, moved past him onto Marlene’s kayak and bit her on the upper arm.

Jan said she saw it lunge again at Marlene and yelled so she could fend it off with the paddle.

“Meanwhile Jim had managed to get back in his kayak and I was keeping watch when it leapt up again and bit me on the wrist,” said Jan, adding, “Marlene and Jim had mainly bruising where it had bit them and I had bite marks and a fang penetration on my arm. Jim had also wrenched his leg when he came out of his kayak.”

Jan added that during the incident the group had remained calm and focused.

“I felt calm and not panicked, just felt we had to get control of the situation so it did not get worse,” said Jan, noting, “Every one of us stayed calm and carried out an orderly rescue and then made a plan to return to Owl Island where we knew there was a good landing site and we could then remove drysuits and assess injuries and help Jim, who was not only in shock but cold as well.”

Warrick, the only one not bitten, applied first aid to their wounds. Jan said if they hadn’t of been wearing drysuits, the bites could have penetrated much worse. “It is necessary for people to be wearing drysuits or wetsuits in these waters not only for protection but also for survival in this very cold waters.”

She added that everyone venturing out should be able to do a self-rescue or buddy rescue to get back in their kayaks.

“We had VHF radios with us plus an InReach which we could also use for an SOS, so although we did paddle back to Telegraph Cove the next day, we know we could have either called a water taxi or the coast guard if we felt we were not able to.”

After the incident, Jim and Marlene headed back to Victoria, but Jan went to the Port McNeill Hospital to have her wound dressed, and upon returning home went to the Cowichan Hospital to receive antibiotics in case of an infection.

“We have no idea of the cause of the attack, it has to be one chance in a million of this happening. It could have been protecting young that we didn’t see, it could have had some bad interactions with some humans,” said Jan, adding, “Our reaction to this is that it is wildlife and therefore unpredictable. Nothing we did could have prevented this incident.”

Jan said they reported the incident to the Marine Mammal Incident Hotline at 1-800-465-4336 and have been in touch with Provincial Parks and the BC Centre for disease control.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

FACEBOOK PHOTO/JAN WHITEHEAD A picture of the group’s kayak trip in the Broughton Archipelago.

Just Posted

‘A bottomless well of love for people and communities’

Parksville Qualicum Beach News editor JR Rardon dies at age 61

NDP pushing for 10 days of paid sick days for all working Canadians

NDP has made the issue a requirement for their support of the Liberal government

No plans to rebuild Hardy Bay Industrial Centre after fire, owner says

A massive fire burnt down the old building in April

Port Hardy Fire Rescue adapts to new realities amidst COVID-19

Don’t forget to follow Port Hardy Fire Rescue on Facebook.

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Dump truck in Nanaimo snags power lines, snaps hydro pole, crashes

No injuries in incident Monday morning on Old Victoria Road

Ferry sailings scheduled once again at Nanaimo’s Departure Bay terminal

BC Ferries announces that resumption of service June 3 includes four daily round trips

Island Health signs working agreement to turn former Comox hospital into a ‘dementia village’

Island Health has signed a project development agreement with Providence Living to… Continue reading

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

High tech fish transport system set up to ‘whoosh’ salmon past Big Bar landslide

Fish will spend roughly 20 seconds inside the system, moving at roughly 20 metres per second

Trudeau to seek 10 days of paid sick leave for Canadian workers, says talks are ongoing

Paid sick leave is key to keeping COVID-19 spread under control, prime minister says

Snowbirds jets will not be leaving Kamloops, just yet

The Snowbirds have been in Kamloops since May 17 when a plane crashed killing Capt. Jennifer Casey

COVID-19 checkpoints ‘up to them,’ Bonnie Henry says of remote B.C. villages

Support local tourism economy, but only if you’re invited in

Most Read