One of the busiest times for GROWLS is seal pup season. On our coast, seal pups are born from June to September, with births peaking in July and August.
Seal pups are coming. Very soon pregnant seal mothers will retire to rocky outcroppings offshore and “haul-out” to give birth to a single seal pup.
Their gestation period is nine to 11 months. Pups weigh about 11 kg. when born. They can swim and dive soon after birth, but need practice to increase skill and endurance.
Newborns have large bright clear eyes, smooth mottled-silver to black skin, and a barrel-shaped fat body. Seal pups stay with their mother for four to six weeks and gain weight rapidly, nursing on their mother’s rich milk. Then they are abruptly weaned.
Mating occurred last year, shortly after the mothers weaned their pups, and now they are ready to mate again. Males will mate with several females during late spring and summer. A process known as delayed implantation occurs so seal pups are born in the right season.
When a seal pup is born prematurely they are identified by a white fur coat known as lanugos, which is normally shed before birth. It is not always known why this happens, other than that premature births occur in all species. Our oceans are polluted and the fish eaten by seals will carry traces of toxic substances.
On June 18, 2011 GROWLS rescued the first seal pup from a south end beach. The seal pup had been observed the day before and was heard crying for its mother. There were no other seals in sight. GROWLS was called and a GROWLS rescuer attended. Careful evaluation determined the seal pup needed our help.
Read the story of the rescue and release of our miracle seal pup Geneva www.growls.ca News & Events GROWLS Articles.
Why seal pups are abandoned is often unknown. Their mothers could have died in birthing, are sometimes shot or suffer boat prop injuries, and big winds sometimes separate mother and pup. A total of thirteen seal pups were rescued by GROWLS in 2011.
The seal pups GROWLS rescues show signs of any or all of the following: dehydration; emaciation; obvious wounds or cuts; lethargy; or discharge from eyes or nose. These symptoms are reflected in their poor body condition, in that they will be extremely thin and have wrinkly skin. These pups need our help.
Harbour Seals are not an endangered species. What we are doing is saving a life and giving the pup a second chance to swim free.
Seal pups are often found at the high tide mark. A healthy seal pup is fat and sassy and usually will try to escape to the water.
If you find a seal pup on the beach call GROWLS at 250-714-7101 and a GROWLS volunteer will come to assess whether the pup needs to be rescued.
This is a wild creature. It has teeth, views you as a predator and could bite you. See the SEAL PUP TIPS clip-and-save in this issue of the Flying Shingle and keep it handy during seal pup season.
There are two seal pup rehabilitation centres in BC: the Vancouver Aquarium, and the Island Wildlife Natural Care Centre (IWNCC) on Salt Spring Island. GROWLS rescues seal pups under the permit of IWNCC and all of our seal pups are taken there. The seal pups receive excellent loving care and a holistic approach to healing is practiced.
Living on Gabriola Island we have incredible moments where we interact with wildlife. The Salish Sea and the marine mammals that call it home surround us. These experiences are long-gone for city folks where everything has been whipped, snipped, clipped, or paved over. Our vibrant wildlife and caring people make Gabriola the best place on Earth.
IWNCC may be found at: www.sealrescue.org.
Liz Ciocea has been member of GROWLS for over 16 years. She is passionate about Gabriola and the island wildlife. She is hoping through her GROWLS articles she will be able to capture and convey to others the beauty of this magical island and its wild inhabitants.
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