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Rare Seal Stranded in Canada's British Columbia

Jan 24, 2016 10:36 PM EST
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A Guadalupe fur seal, rare and far out of its normal range, was recently rescued in British Columbia, Canada. It is now resting at the Vancouver Aquarium. Its normal home is in Baja California, Mexico.

The seal had been spotted twice off western Vancouver Island, in the southwest part of the Canadian province, as the Times Colonist newspaper reported.

Having been corralled on a beach in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, the seal was taken to the Marine Mammal Rescue Center at the aquarium. It is dehydrated and emaciated.

This seal species, Arctocephalus townsendi, breeds on Mexico's Guadalupe Island and is not usually seen in B.C., as Martin Haulena, head veterinarian at the center, said in the article.

In the U.S., Guadalupe fur seals are listed as threatened. Last fall, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared an "unusual mortality event" because seals of this species began washing up sick or dead on the California coast.

Warmer waters off the West Coast -- called "the blob" -- could be associated with the animals becoming stranded, scientists have noted. It's possible that fish species the seals favor may have moved north to escape warmer waters. In California, scientists have said they are not yet sure whether the seals are moving north because of climate or are simply returning to their former range, which went as far up the coast as central California at one point.

These seals formerly lived as far north as Point Conception, California, but were hunted to extinction in that state by 1825. Currently the only breeding colony of the seals is on Guadalupe Island, Mexico, according to California's Marine Mammal Center website.

Guadalupe fur seals have external ear flaps and long front and hind flippers, so they can walk on land. Males grow to six feet long and 300 pounds; females to four feet and 100 pounds.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

-Follow Catherine on Twitter @TreesWhales

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