Scuba divers who discovered a sodden teddy bear in the waters off Vancouver Island believe it was lost — not tossed — and hope to reunite the stuffed animal with its owner.

Jackie Hildering and two friends were diving near the dock off Port Hardy, B.C., on the northern tip of Vancouver Island when Hildering's friend, Natasha Dickinson, spotted the stuffed animal on the ocean floor in about 10 metres of water.

It was partially submerged in silt, and only its head and arm was visible.

"It's like a message in a bottle," said Hildering, who posted a shot of the bear on a website for lost and found teddy bears.

"There's that connection and human interest and mystery about it."

Dickinson said the stuffed bear with its eyes missing,  "looked sad.'' She imagined that it was accidently dropped overboard by a child. 

Undersea garbage bin

During her dives, Hildering said she routinely finds a range of discarded items, from plastic bags, bottles and clothing to animal carcasses.

But like Dickinson, she said she couldn't believe someone would deliberately throw away a stuffed animal.

If the teddy bear was indeed accidentally lost, Hildering would love to reconnect the toy with its owner.

She and her diving friends — members of the Top Island Econauts Scuba Dive Club — were in Port Hardy to act as safety guards for the annual polar bear dip during which participants jump off the dock into the ocean to celebrate the New Year.

Dickinson found the teddy bear during a recreational dive after the event.

Hildering, a diver, photographer, educator and whale researcher writes a blog where she uses the handle, The Marine Detective

She's using the hashtag #LostTeddy on social media to look for its owner.

dry teddy bear

Diver Natasha Dickinson, who found the bear, took it home and washed and dried it. (Natasha Dickinson)

with files from Chris Corday