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Vancouver rescue group takes in first seal pups of 2024

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Two rescued harbour seal pups – now named Nelson and Gustav – are being rehabilitated in Vancouver, marking the start of a busy season for a local non-profit.

The first rescues of the harbour "pupping season" happened this week, according to an update from the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Mammal Rescue Society, which takes in more than 100 animals annually. Eighty per cent of rescue animals are rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

On Monday, a male pup was spotted in White Rock on the breakwater near the popular pier. The seal was just days old and was trapped between the rocks.

"The seal, now named Nelson, is only a few days old and was found dehydrated and underweight due to maternal separation," according to the VAMMR, noting no other adults were seen in the area.

The location was challenging to access and a local company pitched in and helped the rescuers get where they needed to go by providing a boat ride.

The second rescue happened Tuesday at the Mosquito Creek Marina in North Vancouver, after a worker spotted the seal pup, which has since been named Gustav.

"The contractor noticed a struggling seal pup in the water off the dock. The pup, estimated to be only a few hours old, was struggling to stay afloat with a full placenta still attached. The mother was nowhere to be found," the VAMMR said, adding that Gustav was premature and in need of critical care, which he is now receiving.

In both cases, the organization says the public did the right thing by hanging back, leaving the pups alone, and calling the rescue group. The VAMMR also reminds people that pups spotted alone aren’t always or necessarily abandoned or in need of rescue – which is one reason it's important to call in the experts to assess the situation.

This year, VAMMR is offering donors who contribute a minimum of $500 the option of naming a rescued seal pup. One of the conditions is that the name has to be " respectful and suitable for a wide audience."

Anyone who spots a seal pup is asked to call 604-258-7325, Other marine mammals can be reported to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans at 1-800-465-4336.

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