(City of Victoria)

After an elephant seal wobbled ashore Gonzales Beach to moult, Victoria officials and wildlife experts are pleading with beach-goers to keep away.

“Please use caution, keep dogs away and give the seal space,” the City of Victoria said in a Thursday tweet.

Though it may look slow and harmless, the seal can move very quickly and could be dangerous if it feels threatened, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

The DFO says a moulting seal is often an intimidating sight, with the critter appearing sick. Still, it’s an entirely natural process.

All elephant seals spend one month a year on land to undergo a “catastrophic moult”—a process in which they shed all of their fur and the underlying layer of skin, the DFO explains.

“It doesn’t eat and may lose up to 25% of its body weight,” it said.

“For just over a month, the seal is confined to land and spends most of its time dozing and lazily flipping sand onto itself to stay cool.”

Wildlife experts say elephant seals are regular visitors to the BC coast, especially in the spring and summer months.

“They can be spotted off Vancouver Island’s West Coast, in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and off the Queen Charlotte Islands,” the DFO added.

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