An emaciated, stranded fur seal, rescued last week off Vancouver Island, has died, says the Vancouver Aquarium.
The fur seal, which is normally found near Mexico's Guadalupe Island off the coast of Baja, California, died early Wednesday, according to an aquarium veterinarian who was trying to nurse the animal back to health.
"He was looking better on Saturday, but (Tuesday) night he had a very quick gastrointestinal bleed," Dr. Martin Haulena, the aquarium's head veterinarian, said in a statement.
"Unfortunately, it's a common complication for marine mammals that strand while experiencing near starvation."
The seal was rescued from a beach at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve — more than 2,000 kilometres from home — by officers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada and a Vancouver Aquarium research associate.
The fur seal is listed as threatened in the U.S.— though not so in Canada, because it's not typically found here.
Seal was lethargic
After its rescue, aquarium officials said the seal was lethargic, underweight and refusing food.
Still, Haulena said the rescue was worth the effort. "Even if the odds of survival are slim, we're always going to do our best to try and save an animal's life.
"We're a rescue centre … that's what we do," he said in the statement.
Haulena also noted that treating a threatened species gives staff a chance to learn more for conservation efforts.
Last fall, the seals were washing up sick and dead along the California coast at a rate eight times higher than normal, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Scientists there think warmer waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean may be behind the seal strandings. An unusually warm mass of seawater stretching along much of the West Coast has affected marine life. Some species of fish, which the fur seals consume, may have moved farther north than usual to avoid the warmer waters.