British Columbia

Mo the rescued fur seal released back into the wild

After being rehabilitated at the Vancouver Aquarium, a northern fur seal has been released back into the wild.

Seal was found emaciated and dehydrated near Hardwicke Island in January

A northern fur seal pup that was being rehabilitated at the Vancouver Aquarium has been released back to the wild. (Vancouver Aquarium)

A northern fur seal found on the edge of starvation off the coast of B.C.'s Hardwicke Island has been rehabilitated and released back into the wild. 

The young seal was rescued at the end of January by staff at a nearby salmon farm. It was flown to Vancouver, where it was taken care of by staff at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Centre.

Lindsaye Akhurst, manager at the centre, says over the past six months, the seal — named Mo by aquarium staff — doubled in weight. 

"We had her in a pool separate from the other animals [with] not a lot of human interaction. So we were able to release her out very successfully," Akhurst said. 

Watch as Mo the northern fur seal arrives at the Vancouver Aquarium in January:

Staff at the Vancouver Aquarium are trying to save a rescued seal pup that was starving when she was found. 0:38

Akhurst said keeping human interaction to a minimum is key in an animal's rehabilitation. 

"Sometimes when [the rescued animals] are under intensive care, we are spending a lot of time with them. We don't want them to habituate to humans," she explained.

"We were really lucky with [Mo], and her personality, that you know she did not habituate to us — and hopefully is staying far and clear from any other human interaction out in the wild." 

Listen to the interview with Lindsaye Akhurst on CBC's On The Island:

The seal was released on a secluded beach near Ucluelet on Thursday. The release team noted she "headed straight for the open ocean … without even a backwards glance."

Mo has been tagged with a satellite link transmitter so that every time the seal surfaces it will send data back to the rescue team. 

"It enables us to see exactly where she goes to and hopefully that was kind of the place where she came from.

"We're not sure if she came from the northern population of northern fur seals, up near Alaska, or if she came from the southern populations down in the [Californian] Channel Islands," Akhurst said.

The Marine Mammal Rescue Centre rescues more than 100 seals and other animals every year, so the satellite tracking helps with post release work. 

"We [ensure] they're not nuisance animals or animals that are possibly getting into areas where they shouldn't be," she said.

There are plans to put satellite transmitters on 12 other animals nearing release. 

With files from On The Island

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