Caring for Stranded Marine Animals
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Patient Update: October 2nd, 2020

 

It’s finally fall and we are excited to start up our weekly Patient Update blog again here at National Marine Life Center!  We had a very busy end to our summer and are now working to prepare for the upcoming turtle cold-stunning season, which could start as early as late-October.  Since our last post in August, we’ve released six seal patients and our last Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle patient, Tutis! However, we’ve also had some lows. Owls Head, or Owl, a male harbor seal, passed away on September 3rd after complications following an MRI scan. In order to better understand Owl’s developmental and neurological issues, it was decided that an MRI scan could allow staff to make the most informed decisions on his future care.  After the procedure, Owl’s health declined. He was closely monitored and cared for by animal care staff, but was unfortunately unable to recover. Further advanced diagnostics are in progress through a collaborative effort with a group of experts to get a deeper insight into Owl’s central nervous system and possible causes for his neurological condition and decline post anesthesia. Owl was widely-loved by the NMLC community and beyond. We have learned a lot from Owl and we will continue to do so by studying his case to provide insight and share the results to prepare for future cases. 

Owl resting on his back.

As for patient releases, four of our harbor seals, Bug, Montauk, Cleveland, and Seguin, were released together in early September. Since arriving in May as pups, they all learned to eat fish on their own and gained around 30 lbs each! They were then cleared for release by veterinary and animal care staff, meaning they no longer needed any medications or treatments, could swim well without exhaustion, and could compete for fish, along with other checkpoints. 

(Left to right) Bug, Cleveland, Montauk, and Seguin ready for release!

Bug, Cleveland, Montauk, and Seguin on the beach.

Bug, Cleveland, and Seguin entering the water.

Unfortunately, one of the seals in the group, Montauk, experienced human interaction for several days after his release while trying to rest on a nearby beach. After being approached and harassed by multiple people, he was visibly stressed and exhausted as well as injured, and was not returning to the water to feed. NMLC received permission from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to retrieve Montauk from the beach. He is currently at NMLC being closely monitored and getting rest until he is cleared for re-release. Montauk’s experience is a helpful reminder to give seals plenty of space in the wild, both as pups and adults, as it can cause them severe stress when they are hauled out to rest and warm-up. 

Montauk on the beach when he was retrieved by NMLC volunteers.

We successfully released two more harbor seals, Thachers Island and Wings Neck, this week. Thachers Island, or Thacher, came to NMLC in late June as a weanling when he was found on a busy beach in Newburyport, MA, and was visibly lethargic and thin. Thacher, making immense progress throughout his care, became popular on our social media platforms for his funny poses and personality! His roommate, Wings Neck, or Wings, was still a maternally dependent pup when she was admitted in May after stranding in Phippsburg, ME. After receiving treatment for otitis media, a middle ear infection, she recovered quickly and was finally cleared for release. As with all of our rehabilitated patients, we are excited that they were both able to return to their home in the ocean! 

Thacher (left) and Wings (right) entering the water.

Tutis, our last Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle from the 2019 cold-stunning event, was finally released! Tutis remained in our care after the majority of the 2019 group of cold-stunned turtles had been released in Florida and Georgia earlier this year to continue treatment for osteolysis, a bone condition that is often a result of cold-stunning. He was released off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard to help direct him south before the water gets cooler.  

Tutis being released off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

In addition to Montauk, we still have two more harbor seal patients here at NMLC! Our male harbor seal, Derby, was admitted on June 30th weighing just 17 lbs. He came in with numerous puncture wounds, lesions and lacerations covering his whole body, with the most severe wounds surrounding his left eye and the deepest area cutting into the left outer ear. He now weighs nearly 50 lbs and lives in one of our pre-release pools with Montauk and Marblehead, a female  harbor seal. Marblehead arrived at NMLC in July after being found unresponsive on a beach in Hampton, NH. Along with Derby, she is now able to mass feed, eating nearly 7 lbs of fish per day! Montauk, Marblehead, and Derby enjoy chasing each other around their tank and playing with their EEDs, or environmental enrichment devices. Marblehead recently finished her final round of antibiotics for a respiratory condition, and will hopefully be cleared to be released soon with Montauk and Derby!

Marblehead in her previous enclosure.

Derby in the pre-release pool he shares with Montauk and Marblehead.

What happens when all of our seal patients have been released? Well, we are busy preparing our hospital for this winter’s cold-stunned turtles, as we take on a turtle triaging role for our second year! There’s no way to know just how many turtles will need rehabilitation, and with staff limitations at many hospitals due to the pandemic, this year could be busier than ever! 

Thank you for your continued support! Be sure to keep up with news on our current and new patients on Instagram, Facebook, and Tik Tok!

Posted by Bradlie M. 

Bradlie is an intern who recently graduated from Boston College with a degree in Biology. 

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