Don’t feed the seals.
That’s the message from Caitlin Birdsall, coordinator of Vancouver Aquarium’s North Coast Initiative. Her plea comes after the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority announced the phasing out of hand-feeding harbour seals there, a popular tourist attraction in Victoria.
Birdsall said although it’s not as organized in Prince Rupert, hand-feeding seals does happen here.
“It appears there is a lot of education needed to let people know that this is dangerous for the seals, but also for themselves,” she said.
Seals being hand-fed have bitten people and in one case a few years ago, pulled in a small child, cautioned Birdsall. Luckily, the child was wearing a life jacket and was all right.
Feeding seals can be dangerous, as evidenced by the 2009 story of that child being pulled in by the seal. The girl’s father said he strongly suspected it was because she had regularly fed the seals there.
But there are other dangers, too. Seals have a lot of bacteria in their mouth that can result in something called seal finger if you are bitten. Seal finger is an infection of the fingers caused by direct contact with seals. Prompt diagnosis is critical, but is easily treated with good results.
Birdsall said another reason you shouldn’t feed the seals is for the safety of the animals.
“Habituation of wildlife never ends well for the animal,” she said.
The Port Ed Harbour Authority was unable to comment at this time about whether it has regulations in place — or might in the future — about feeding seals from Rushbrook Floats or other places.