A tiny seal pup that was found near Nanaimo, B.C., with a discarded nylon fishing net cutting deep into her neck is expected to make a full recovery, says the Vancouver Aquarium.
Dr. Karisa Tang, a veterinary fellow at the Vancouver Aquarium, first treated Maëlle the seal pup when she was brought in with injuries.
"Remarkably for her wounds and how small she is, she came in pretty bright — although she is getting a little bit feistier the longer she's there, which is great," said Tang.
The seal pup was given doses of antibiotics and pain medication, said Tang.
Maëlle was one-third of the size of a normal seal pup when she was brought in. Now the focus is on feeding her fish and doubling her weight, Tang said.
The aquarium said Maëlle will be a great candidate for release in the coming months if she continues to recover at this pace.
Injuries 'entirely preventable'
The pup was first spotted tangled up in the net in early December by someone on Blueback Beach in Lantzville on Vancouver Island, but she swam away before she could be rescued.
She appeared a week later, and was successfully brought ashore by observers.
When she was brought in, the aquarium said the incident was a stark reminder of the impact of carelessly discarded trash on animals.
"It's always hard to see these kinds of injuries because they're entirely preventable," the head veterinarian at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre Martin Haulena said at the time.
According to the rescue centre, marine debris entanglement is a growing problem worldwide; this year alone the centre has treated 144 seal pups, one sea otter and disentangled several sea lions in the wild.
Haulena says pinnipeds — seals and sea lions — are particularly vulnerable to entanglement because of their curious nature.
The pup was given her name to keep with the aquarium's athletic theme for the year. She was named after snowboarder Maëlle Ricker, the first Canadian woman to win Olympic gold on home soil at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.