A well-meaning person brought this seal pup, now named Shellen Degeneres, to the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre. Staff say people should leave the pups alone and call authorities. (OceanWise)

Leave them alone: Vancouver Aquarium issues warning after several seal pups ‘disturbed’

Rescue centre staff report seeing more seal pups who’ve been handled inappropriately by humans

Staff at the Vancouver Aquarium’s rescue centre have admitted 11 harbour seal pups since the end of June after they’d been “disturbed” by well-meaning humans.

“Once a pup has been removed from its natural environment, it makes it difficult to be reunited with mom, and then we have no choice but to rehabilitate them,” said Emily Johnson, assistant manager at the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre in a news release Thursday, noting some of the 11 pups needed saving, while others did not.

“It’s imperative that humans and pets leave them alone. It’s a perfectly natural situation and it does not mean the pups have been deserted or orphaned.”

Would-be Good Samaritans have patted the seals on the head, picked them up and carried them back into the water, and fed them things like oysters, milk and even a chicken drumstick.

READ MORE: Harbour seal found with 23 shotgun pellets in face

People have hung babies upside down by their flippers to take pictures.

One person called centre staff to report an orphaned pup, but then drove it to a vet clinic and dropped it off.

Another woman put a pup in her bathtub before she called officials.

“One man scooped up two newborn seal pups in a couch cushion case, zipped them up, and put them in the backseat of his car next to his dog to drive them over,” the news release said.

VIDEO: Northern fur seal pup rescued near B.C. fish farm

If you see a seal pup on its own, leave it alone, keep yourself and others, including pets, at a safe distance, and call the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre at 604-258-SEAL (7325) or the Fisheries and Oceans Canada hotline at 1-800-465-4336.

“We want to make sure that every pup reported is indeed separated from its mom because we know that a healthy pup’s best chance of survival is being raised by its mother,” Johnson said.

Ninety-three seals have been admitted to the centre so far this year.

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