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Greater Victoria welcomes juvenile elephant seal

People walking their dogs are advised to be cautious around Emerson
Emerson, a two-year-old elephant seal, will undergo a ‘catastrophic moult’ where he will shed most of his skin over a six-week period. (News Staff/ Thomas Eley)

A juvenile elephant seal has made Greater Victoria his home as he finds a place to moult his skin.

Emerson was first spotted on Monday (April 1), months after his last spotting in September 2023 near the Songhees walkway in Victoria West.

“He is very people friendly, and we are trying to correct that behaviour,” said Roy Osselton, fishery officer with Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Emerson weighs about 180 kilograms and is still relatively small for his size, with the mature males weighing in at 2,300 kilograms.

“He will be moulting for about six weeks.”

It is important to try and keep a 100-metre distance from the seals as being closer could be seen as harassing the animal.

“He is essentially living in an open-air aquarium at the moment.”

The moulting process, known as a catastrophic moult, causes Emerson to shed his entire skin. It can be painful, leading to cracked skin, bloodshot eyes and pus.

“They don’t leave their skin behind on land as they go for a swim during the process.”

Elephant seals will swim up from San Francisco and use the continental shelf as a hunting ground for food such as squid, fish and octopus.

“They are one of the best deep divers in the world. They can slow their heart down to three beats per minute.”

People walking their dogs are advised to be cautious around Emerson, as they can carry disease and move quickly when they want to have a very powerful bite.

Elephant seals have been common in Greater Victoria, with around 21 sighted last year, something Osselton attributes to El Niño.

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About the Author: Thomas Eley

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