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VIDEO: Fisheries relocates famed Vancouver Island elephant seal to remote beach

Dubbed Emerson by locals, the seal repeatedly returns to Greater Victoria

Moulting elephant seals aren’t uncommon on Greater Victoria shores. But one in particular has a penchant for playing in traffic, it’s just one reason the juvenile male seal, dubbed Emerson by its fans, was relocated recently.

No joking, Emerson made his return on April 1, landing on shores of the Saanich section of the Gorge Waterway. He’d last been seen in September 2023 near the Songhees Walkway in Vic West.

Emerson, a two-year-old elephant seal, will undergo a ‘catastrophic moult’ shedding most of his skin over a six-week period. (Tom Eley/News Staff)

READ ALSO: ‘Not all seal pups you see alone need to be rescued’

Emerson was in the news a lot in recent years – that fame can draw a crowd. Susan Coulas of East Sooke came out for a peek – from a respectable distance – at the wayward mammal and witnessed its eviction Friday (April 5).

“When we got there he was quite comfortable and snoozing in the tulip flowerbed,” Coulas said. “I’ve seen elephant seals in the wild and that, but I’ve never seen one in a tulip bed.”

She overheard some onlookers who suggested the young seal had evaded capture earlier in the day.

Then crews started getting active again, clearing an area, creating a perimeter around the seal and backing in a big trailer.

“They had a discussion and got a game plan in place,” said Coulas, who figures Emerson might have had an idea something was up. He picked up his head couple times and eyed those closest to him.

“They got him corralled unceremoniously … there was a lot of snorting, there was a lot of barking.”

He tried to turn around but a touch of the catch pole to the snout would get him back in line.

“It didn’t take that long. I think altogether it might have been about 15 minutes. They’d done it before they knew what they were doing.”

At two years old and about 500 pounds Emerson is acclimated to both people and infrastructure. He’s been removed from roadways more than once, for everyone’s safety. Emerson has been relocated previously, and that’s what Coulas was told happened again Friday.

“I love Emerson, but Emerson does not need to be in the flower bed at the Gorge,” she said. “Emerson’s going to be a lot safer … if he chooses to stay there.”

READ ALSO: Elephant seal claims Gonzales Beach for its annual moulting

Emerson emerged from the Salish Sea to moult, a natural process for the seals. They can spend around a month on land or close to land during the process, which sees them shed their fur and the underlying layer of skin.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) notes that while they may look slow and harmless, the seals are still capable of moving very quickly and could be dangerous if they feel threatened.

Anyone who sees an animal being harassed or injured, or an injured or sick animal exhibiting highly unusual behaviour is asked to call the DFO’s 24-hour Observe, Record and Report hotline at 1-800-465-4336.

RELATED: Greater Victoria welcomes juvenile elephant seal

Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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