Seal at Gonzales Beach(Colin Smith Photography)

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) are once again asking that the public stay away from an elephant seal that is moulting on Gonzales Beach following reports of it being harassed.

Officials say that large crowds were standing within a foot of the animal around 5 p.m. Wednesday.

There were reports of small children taunting, waving their arms, and even throwing food at the seal.

“This animal cannot afford to expend any extra calories trying to defend itself,” said Mandy Ludlow of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

“If people could just leave it alone, that would be great.”

Elephant seal has been on beach since end of April

The time in which seals moult (shed their winter coat) varies from species to species, but female and juvenile animals generally moult from April through May.

As reported by Victoria Buzz last week, the moulting process usually lasts 25 to 28 days, during which time the animals don’t go into the water to feed.

That means this little one will be on Gonzales for a while longer, making it all the more important that beachgoers keep a healthy distance away.

The BC SPCA told Victoria Buzz that the Vancouver Aquarium is on standby in case the seal requires rescue.

Anyone who sees an animal being harassed or injured is asked to call DFO’s Observe, Record and Report 24-hour hotline at 1-800-465-4336.

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