In two years of living in Crescent Beach, Leslie Lauren has never spotted a seal on the beach – let alone one that needed help.
But last Friday she became a seal pup saviour, performing her first rescue with help from Vancouver Aquarium experts and passersby.
At 6:30 a.m. on July 8, Lauren looked out a window of her beachside house to see a dog sniffing something on the beach.
“Then it kind of moved, and I’m like: Oh my God, that’s a baby seal.”
Lauren told the dog owner to corral his pet, and she plunged into action. Down at the beach, south of Beecher Street, she saw the animal didn’t look healthy.
“It would sort of look up, and sort of look down. It would try to move but just couldn’t.”
She contacted the Vancouver Aquarium’s Marine Mammal Rescue Centre and sent photos from the scene. Lauren was told the female pup – emaciated, and sporting an injured eye – was in need of help.
Under guidance from rescue centre staff via telephone, Lauren fetched gloves and a household storage bin. With the help of two passersby, she slipped the harbour seal into the temporary tub.
“It was a feisty little thing even though it was sick,” she said. “When it started hissing it was kind of scary, but we’re like: No, you’re injured, and we’re going to get you help.”
Rescue centre staff arrived soon after to retrieve the animal for treatment. They’ve since given it a name – Lou-Seal – and by Monday the pup was already gaining weight and responding to treatment for its eye injury.
Most seal pup patients spend about two months at the rescue centre before they are returned to the wild, according to the centre, which rescues and rehabilitates more than 100 marine mammals each year. It’s the only facility of its kind in Canada and relies on the support of donors and volunteers.
As for why Lauren stepped in to help Lou-Seal, she said that’s what people are supposed to do.
“There’s absolutely no hesitation. When you see an animal in distress you try to help out as best you can.”