May 20th, 2024

Elephant seal Emerson is back in Victoria, defying relocation by swimming 200 km

By The Canadian Press on April 17, 2024.

Emerson the elephant seal, who was around seven weeks old, learns how to swim at Deception Pass State Park in Washington State in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Marlene Bocast **MANDATORY CREDIT**

VICTORIA – Emerson the elephant seal is back in Victoria after defying attempts to relocate him and swimming more than 200 kilometres to return to his preferred urban habitat to moult.

The Fisheries Department says the 225-kilogram seal swam an “astonishing” average of 34 kilometres a day during a six-day journey, after the failed relocation to waters near Vancouver Island’s Barkley Sound on April 5.

Fisheries officer Morgan Van Kirk says he was “blown away” by news that two-year-old Emerson had returned to Victoria last week, lounging on a beach during his annual moult, a process in which seals shed their fur and top layer of skin.

Emerson, named by U.S. researchers who have tracked him since birth, has a history of turning up in unusual locations and has been photographed on busy city streets since first being reported on April 1.

Van Kirk says that as long as Emerson is left alone by the public, the department doesn’t immediately plan to move him again after his “taxing journey.”

The Fisheries Department says in a statement that Emerson’s fans need to give him space during the moulting process, and he could be dangerous if he feels threatened.

It says unleashed dogs have been seen barking at Emerson, “often at the instigation of their owners.”

“People have approached Emerson to try and pet him, take selfies with him, and on occasion prompted their small children to do the same, and in one reported instance a child was coaxed to touch their nose to his,” the statement says.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April. 17, 2024.

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