Caring for Stranded Marine Animals
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Patient Update: April 18, 2020

SEALS

CURRENT PATIENTS

It’s officially Harbor seal pup season here at NMLC! Early last week, there were reports of a white, fluffy baby seal on Minot’s Beach in Scituate. That baby seal was rescued by our friends at New England Aquarium and brought to us on April 10th! Weighing in at 8.4 kg (18.5 lb) upon admit, Owl’s Head, a male premature harbor seal pup, is the smallest harbor seal pup we’ve had here at NMLC. Harbor seals give birth May-June typically, but premature pups are often born in late April. Harbor seal pups also typically shed that white fluffy coat, called lanugo, while still in utero, so seeing a harbor seal with a full lanugo coat is a telltale sign of a premature pup! Owl’s Head is just starting to shed his coat to reveal that beautiful silver coat underneath.

Owl’s Head enjoying the heating pad in Dry Holding.

Why was Owl’s Head, (or “Hootie,” as some of our team calls him) born prematurely? There can be a number of reasons. Harbor seals can give birth prematurely if there is something wrong with themselves, if there is something wrong with their pup, or if it comes down to human interaction. The main reason we take in so many harbor seal pups each summer is because they are left alone on the beach while mothers go out to forage for short periods of time. This oftentimes leads to some well-meaning people thinking there is something wrong with the pup and taking the matter into their own hands, which then in turn causes the pup to be abandoned by its mother. 

It is extremely important to remember that it is not only illegal to be within 150 ft of any marine mammal, but to also harass by taking photos, picking up, putting or pushing back into the water, feeding, or interacting with it in any sort of way. Harbor and grey seals are with their mothers for 3-4 weeks only until they are weaned, and so it is common and completely normal to see small seals alone on the beach–they are most likely just resting! If you ever see a seal on the beach and are concerned about its well being, please do what is best for you and the animal, and contact your local stranding agency!

Marine Mammal Stranding Agencies of New England (please refer by your location)

  • IFAW: 508-743-9548. All of Cape Cod & Southeastern Massachusetts.
  • NOAA: 866-755-6622. Plymouth MA through Salem MA.
  • Seacoast Science Center:  603-436-8043. Gloucester, MA through New Hampshire
  • Marine Mammals of Maine: 1-800-532-9551; Maine
  • Mystic Aquarium: 860-572-5955, ext. 107. Connecticut & Rhode Island.

Boon and Quoddy are now in Pup Room together, where they have more space to swim and move around! Boon is eating fish completely on his own now and weighs 22.8 kg (50 lbs), meaning he’s ready to go into the pre-release pool next! Quoddy is still struggling to eat fish on his own but is observing Boon on a regular basis grabbing and swallowing whole fish in the water. He has made significant progress with fishicle enrichment and fish school, which consists of moving a thawed fish around and placing it around his mouth to get him interested in chasing and mashing on it. He is definitely showing more interest in fish and mashing on them more than before, so hopefully it is only a matter of time before he’s also able to eat completely on his own! We are very excited to see such improvements in both animals and look forward to the day they can both swim wild and free again.

Quoddy when he was in Dry Holding.

Boon giving a ‘boop’ in Pup Room.

 

PAST PATIENTS

Over the past few weeks we said farewell to three of our seal patients! On April 8th, we released Curtis, our second adult Harp seal in Sagamore; and on April 12th, we released our juvenile Grey seal Woody and our grey seal pup Nobska at Gooseberry Island  in Westport! Both releases were private due to current COVID-19 restrictions, and to ensure our personnel and animals were all kept safe. You can view the release videos of Curtis, Nobska and Woody on our Facebook page!

Nobska giving us one last glance before she swims wild and free!

Woody making his way towards the water.

Curtis at his release.

 

SEA TURTLES

Our four Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle patients are still doing well and enjoying their time swimming in ST2 while eating all the squid they can. Milo and #44 are still healing from minor osteolysis, while Compass has been focusing on eating and growing! Tutis had passed a squid beak in his cloaca, which caused some blockage and swelling, which he is being treated for daily.

Tutis enjoying a squid head.

 

VOLUNTEERS

This week is National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and so we here at NMLC want to recognize every single Animal Care and Native Turtle volunteer that have been continuing to help our animals in the hospital during these crazy times. We are a very small team of dedicated people and would never be able to do our work without our volunteers, interns and staff. We have been operating with a skeleton crew, and taking proper safety precautions to minimize contact while still caring for our patients. Thank you not only to our awesome volunteers, but also to our Spring interns, Veterinarians, Education department, and Animal Care staff members who come in every day and put in many extra hours to ensure the best care possible for our patients!

Our wonderful volunteers, interns and staff members at a seal release last fall.

Inspired by our updates and interested in joining our team? 

Volunteer Opportunities:

We offer a wide range of volunteer positions in various departments. This includes but is not limited to: Animal Care Team (18+), Junior Animal Care (14+), Administration, Education, and Fundraising.

To find out more please click here.

Internship Opportunities:

We offer a Marine Animal Rehabilitation & Education Internship, as well as a Marketing Internship. Applications for our Fall semester are due by July 1st, 2020. For more information, please click here

 

Posted by Kim T. 

Kim is an Animal Care Volunteer who recently graduated from Bridgewater State University with a degree in Biology.

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