An elephant seal stuck beside a busy highway on Saanich needed to be rescued.
A couple was walking their dogs near Burnside Road West and the Trans-Canada Highway, just after 1 p.m. Monday, when they found the animal.
Saanich police officers were called to the scene, and out of concern that the animal might have been injured, they contacted Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
Mandy Ludlow, conservation and protection detachment commander with DFO, said it's not your typical call to police.
“It was literally beside the median on the side of the road at the base of the hill,” she said.
She discovered that the 275-pound female seal was stuck and needed help.
“It could go onto the highway because it was right at the off-ramp,” she said. “People are coming flying off the highway and hitting that off-ramp quite quickly.”
Ludlow said the seal was similar in colour to the pavement and there was concern the animal would be struck.
After more than three hours, DFO and police were able to help bring the seal back to Colquitz River.
“We have these big boards and we bang it and just try to encourage the animal to move on its own,” she said.
During her investigation, Ludlow learned the animal, which is moulting, had left the river due to being harassed.
“It was brought to my attention that it was being harassed by off-leash dogs and in an effort to get away from people and dogs, it had hauled itself up a couple of banks, across a walking trail, over to beside the highway,” she said.
Elephant seals can spend up to a month per year on the land to moult.
“While they do this, all their fur is shed along with a layer of skin. And while they do this, they don't eat,” Ludlow said. “As you can imagine, if you don't eat for a month, any calories your body has are super important just to live.”
Harassing a seal is unlawful under Canada's Marine Mammal Regulations. "But more importantly, it's really detrimental to the animals and their survivability," she said.
She's reminding the public to be mindful.
“If they see a marine mammal or any wildlife, keep their distance and appreciate nature from a distance and allow nature to be wild.”
The seal is expected to be OK. If anyone spots it again in a dangerous spot, they're asked to contact DFO’s 24-hour hotline at 1-800-465-4336.