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Celebrity elephant seal relocated from Greater Victoria to remote Vancouver Island beach

Emerson the elephant seal was transported from the Gorge Waterway in a van.
Emerson the seal is corralled by fisheries officers into a van for relocation on Friday. VIA DEPARTMENT OF FISHERIES AND OCEANS

A celebrity elephant seal has been relocated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans from the Gorge Waterway to an undisclosed beach on Vancouver Island’s west coast.

“Emerson was safely delivered to his new home on a perfect quiet beach last night. He went for a swim and seemed very ­content,” said fisheries officer Morgan Van Kirk in a statement Saturday.

DFO spokesperson Lara Sloan confirmed that Emerson, an elephant seal that was spotted throughout the capital region this week, was successfully corralled into a van near the Gorge Waterway Friday afternoon and ­relocated to an area far from human habitation on Vancouver Island’s west coast.

About half a dozen people used plastic boards and wooden pallets to enclose and coax Emerson towards a DFO vehicle.

Video from CHEK News showed bystanders cheering and clapping once Emerson safely made his way into the van using a ramp.

It’s the fourth time that the stair-climbing, road-crossing northern elephant seal has been relocated by fisheries officers.

Born in January 2022 in Bowman Bay in Deception Pass State Park in Puget Sound, Emerson has captured hearts on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border.

His repeated visits to the capital region have drawn crowds and lots of online chatter.

Last year, Emerson spent close to a month sprawled in various parts of Oak Bay, watched over by onlookers and police officers until he finished moulting.

Elephant seals usually come ashore twice a year, with April and May being prime time for juvenile seals like Emerson to undergo the three-to-five week moulting process.

DFO said the move was to ensure that the two-year-old elephant seal will be able to complete the moulting process in peace and that Emerson would not create health and safety risks to humans and off-leash dogs in the capital region.

Andrew Trites, director of the marine mammal research unit at the University of B.C.’s institute for oceans and fisheries, said it is unlikely for Emerson to become habituated to humans.

It’s possible that Emerson will return to the capital region someday, as elephant seals are creatures of habit, Trites said earlier this week.

He’ll be much bigger if he comes back.

Trites said male elephant seals grow rapidly between the ages of two and six and can reach up to 2,000 kilograms.

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