FACEBOOK PHOTO/JAN WHITEHEAD A seal bite from the incident in the Broughton Archipelago. Three of the four kayakers were attacked by the seal.

Seal attacks kayakers off northern Vancouver Island

‘It has to be one chance in a million of this happening.’

Four kayakers were reminded of how unpredictable wildlife can be after they were attacked by a seal during a recent trip to the Broughton Archipelago.

Jan and Warrick Whitehead, from Duncan, set out with their friends Jim and Marlene Harper for a 15-day trip kayaking and camping throughout the islands.

After camping overnight on Owl Island at a Provincial Park campsite, the group packed up and set out to paddle to Insect Island on the morning of July 9.

“We saw no seals as we paddled toward the Canoe Islands and through the fairly narrow short passage, until Warrick noticed some water motion ahead of him as we exited the passage, thinking it was a fish,” said Jan in an email interview with the Gazette.

She said a single seal then leapt out of the water onto Jim’s kayak and proceeded to grab him under the arm and pull at him, which upset his kayak and tipped him into the water.

“There was a great fear that the seal would continue the attack on him as he struggled beside his kayak. I proceeded to paddle to his side to try and prevent any other attack and to calm Jim and let him know we were there for support.”

After Warrick paddled to the other side of Jim to help him, the seal leapt onto Warrick’s kayak, moved past him onto Marlene’s kayak and bit her on the upper arm.

Jan said she saw it lunge again at Marlene and yelled so she could fend it off with the paddle.

“Meanwhile Jim had managed to get back in his kayak and I was keeping watch when it leapt up again and bit me on the wrist,” said Jan, adding, “Marlene and Jim had mainly bruising where it had bit them and I had bite marks and a fang penetration on my arm. Jim had also wrenched his leg when he came out of his kayak.”

Jan added that during the incident the group had remained calm and focused.

“I felt calm and not panicked, just felt we had to get control of the situation so it did not get worse,” said Jan, noting, “Every one of us stayed calm and carried out an orderly rescue and then made a plan to return to Owl Island where we knew there was a good landing site and we could then remove drysuits and assess injuries and help Jim, who was not only in shock but cold as well.”

Warrick, the only one not bitten, applied first aid to their wounds. Jan said if they hadn’t of been wearing drysuits, the bites could have penetrated much worse. “It is necessary for people to be wearing drysuits or wetsuits in these waters not only for protection but also for survival in this very cold waters.”

She added that everyone venturing out should be able to do a self-rescue or buddy rescue to get back in their kayaks.

“We had VHF radios with us plus an InReach which we could also use for an SOS, so although we did paddle back to Telegraph Cove the next day, we know we could have either called a water taxi or the coast guard if we felt we were not able to.”

After the incident, Jim and Marlene headed back to Victoria, but Jan went to the Port McNeill Hospital to have her wound dressed, and upon returning home went to the Cowichan Hospital to receive antibiotics in case of an infection.

“We have no idea of the cause of the attack, it has to be one chance in a million of this happening. It could have been protecting young that we didn’t see, it could have had some bad interactions with some humans,” said Jan, adding, “Our reaction to this is that it is wildlife and therefore unpredictable. Nothing we did could have prevented this incident.”

Jan said they reported the incident to the Marine Mammal Incident Hotline at 1-800-465-4336 and have been in touch with Provincial Parks and the BC Centre for disease control.

 

FACEBOOK PHOTO/JAN WHITEHEAD A picture of the group’s kayak trip in the Broughton Archipelago.

Just Posted

UPDATE: 5 injured in plane crash following Abbotsford International Airshow

One in critical condition in incident involving vintage plane

Shag Creek area under evacuation order, area expanded

93 properties are being told to evacuate immediately

B.C. Wildfires 2018: Thousands prepare to leave their homes at a moment’s notice

Northwest B.C. and Cariboo seeing most fire activity in province as crews battle 490 fires

UPDATED: Evacuation alerts due to Chutanli Lake Fire expanded; Shag Creek area put on alert

40 properties on alert due to Chutanli Lake Fire; 17 due to Shag Creek

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

Night patrol on Chilliwack waters leads DFO to seize 48 sockeye and harbour seal from poachers

Charges pending after two poachers arrested for salmon fishing at night

Vancouver 6th most liveable city in the world: report

West coast city narrowly beats Toronto, but is bested by Calgary

Plaque that replaced Macdonald statue at Victoria city hall vandalized

Less than 24 hours after plaque was installed, an ‘X’ had been scratched through the centre

UPDATED: Cars plunge in Italian highway bridge collapse; 25 killed

Five more people are injured and in serious condition

Court hearing on Humboldt Broncos fundraising to test Saskatchewan law

The money has yet to be distributed because Saskatchewan has legislation known as the Informal Public Appeals Act

Fredericton police release scene of shooting spree, but ‘damage’ remains

Residents of a Fredericton apartment complex may not be able to return home just yet

Bus crash in Ecuador kills 23 people, injures 14

The bus hit another vehicle in an area known as dead man’s curve on Tuesday

Trump and Omarosa spar over claim he used N-word

Manigault Newman continues promoting her White House tell-all and releasing secret audio recordings

Most Read