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Watch: Elephant seal stuck beside busy B.C. highway after being harassed

The 275-pound seal was forced to leave a river after being harassed by people and dogs.

An elephant seal was discovered stuck beside a busy highway on Vancouver Island and 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 (DFO).

Mandy Ludlow, conservation and protection detachment commander with DFO, says 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 says. 

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 says. “People are coming flying off the highway and hitting that off-ramp quite quickly.”

Ludlow explains how the seal had a very similar colour to the pavement and there was concern the animal would be struck. 

“We have these big boards and we bang it and just try to encourage the animal to move on its own,” she says.

After more than three hours, DFO and police were able to help bring the seal back to Colquitz River. 

During her investigation, Ludlow learned the animal 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,” Ludlow tells Glacier Media. 

Elephant seals can spend up to a month 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 explains. “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 says. 

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. 

DFO officers and Saanich police worked to get the seal back to a safe spot. | Saanich Police Department