Nfld. & Labrador

Seal pup rescued on Southern Shore sent to rehab in Nova Scotia

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is warning the public against interacting with wild animals after a Southern Shore man took a seal pup home, assuming it had been abandoned.
DFO is warning about interacting with seals after a Southern Shore man assumed a seal pup was abandoned and starving but it wasn't. 0:56

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is warning the public against interacting with wild animals after an Avalon Peninsula man took a seal pup home, assuming it had been abandoned.

"Late last week we got a call from some people down on the Southern Shore that told us that somebody had rescued a small seal pup," Dr. Garry Stenson, DFO's lead seal researcher, said on Tuesday.

DFO's Dr. Garry Stenson warns the public to leave wildlife alone after a Southern Shore man took home a seal pup after assuming it had been abandoned. (CBC)

"So I talked to them down there and it turned out that a gentleman had come across what he thought was an abandoned harbour seal pup, and so [he] had taken it home to try and see what he could do for it and try and save it. We found about this and, of course, that usually never works."

The man was asked to put the pup back on the beach where he had found it, in hopes the mother would come back to her young.

"When it was very apparent that it was not going to be reclaimed by its mother, the fishery officers brought it back...so we checked to see if there was anything that could be done for the animal," Stenson said.

Road to Recovery

Stenson worked with Dr. Jennifer Keyte, director of Animal Care Services at Memorial University, to find a place for the pup.

There are no facilities in Newfoundland to care for such an animal, but the Hope for Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Seaforth, Nova Scotia was willing to take it in.

"So we were able to get the animal in yesterday, it was sent off last night over to the rehabilitation centre, so it's in Nova Scotia right now," Stenson said on Tuesday.

Seal pup in the canoe where she spent Sunday night. (DFO)

According to DFO, Hope for Wildlife has three other harbour seal pups it is currently rehabilitating.

The latest seal pup has been named Glennic, in honour of the fishery officers who brought the pup to St. John's and who monitored it all weekend.

Stenson said the seal was very thin and dehydrated when they found it.

"We hope that it will do well but we don't know." he said.

"They're having to rehydrate it first before they start giving it food. They're hoping by tonight they'll start being able to give it a milk slurry to try and give it back some of the energy that it needs."

Plea to the public

In order to prevent future cases like this, Stenson reminds the public to let wildlife be.

"For the most part, what people should do is keep back from it, enjoy the view without getting too close and remember that they are wild animals," he said.

"In this case, it was a situation where we have a harbour seal pup that was probably still nursing, or at least close to that. We have no facilities here to look after them in Newfoundland. Rehab is something that's very rare, it's not common and it's very difficult to do."

The last known seal pup, also a harbour seal, rehabilitated in Newfoundland and Labrador was 20 years ago in 1996.

According to Stenson, most of the seals in the province are not harbour, but harp, grey and hooded.

"All of those have their young and they wean them very quickly, like a hooded seal will wean its pup in four days and then after that the pup is fine. But it may haul out on a beach, and so somebody will come along and they'll think this thing has been abandoned when in fact it's just having a rest," Stenson said.

"So the best thing to do always is to leave the animal alone. In the vast majority of cases it will just go back in the water on its own and it will be fine," he said.

"If the animal is being harassed or is in danger, you should contact your local fishery officer and he'll come and check it out and see what needs to be done."