As July becomes August and the heat is turned up outside, we are focusing on keeping our seals comfortable and cool here at NMLC! We are so excited that four of our harbor seals, Plum, Bird, Monomoy, and Ned are scheduled to be released this week. Since arriving in early May, Plum and Bird have become fan favorites. Bird came in as a premature pup, but still kept up with Plum’s steady pace in their rehabilitation process, hitting all of their necessary milestones, such as learning to eat fish with assistance, hauling out of their pool on their own, and eventually mass feeding!
Ned and Monomoy followed in progress shortly after, gaining lots of weight from eating fish and building up strength. Ned, who arrived shortly before Monomoy in May, has gained more than 30 lbs since first arriving at NMLC!
Monomoy was initially admitted after he was picked up by a member of the public who thought he had been abandoned. Though this person likely had the best intentions in mind, Monomoy may have been separated from his mother in the process, since maternal harbor seals often leave their pups for short periods to eat on their own.
Seeing how small these harbor seal pups were when they first arrived shows just how much progress and growth they’ve experienced! They now all weigh nearly 25 kg (about 55 lbs!), can eat fish on their own, and after 2 months of rehabilitation, are ready to finally return to their home in the ocean.
Our nine other seal patients continue to make progress in our care. Seguin, Bug, Montauk, and Cleveland are enjoying the extra space in their larger pool. They are often seen gliding quickly through the water in circles, an activity called “zooming”, which is one of the ways seals play with each other. Play is an extremely important activity for animal development, teaching them social skills, just like humans! These social skills will eventually help the seals acclimate back to the wild, when they will interact with other seals while hauled out on beaches or rocks.
Seguin, Bug, and Montauk all continue to do well during their mass feedings, while Cleveland still needs a little practice. Though he can successfully eat with his head underwater, he does not eat quite quickly enough yet to be able to compete for fish with his roommates in a mass feed. We hope that by watching his roommates eat fish, he will soon learn to eat on his own!
Owls Head, or Owl has had an exciting week, too! During his swim times, he has started to chew on or mash airfish, fish injected with air, added to the pool with him. This behavior is a huge step for Owl, as he has needed assistance eating his fish thus far. We hope that with more practice, he’ll be able to transition to feeding in the water without as much assistance positioning the fish.
His new roommate, Derby, is great company for Owl. Derby has made significant progress in building strength, and has started eating two whole fish meals each day, along with his ‘fish smoothie’ meals. He currently needs limited assistance when eating whole fish, which means he is on track to feeding on his own in the water. It was also discovered that Derby has lice (Echinophthirius horridus) this week. For treatment, Derby is receiving Ivermectin, a common treatment for parasites.
Marblehead, or Marble, is successfully hauling in and out of the pool in her enclosure. This behavior is especially important in the warmer weather, as the seals’ pools allow them to cool off as needed. For this reason, all of our seals are given water access overnight once Animal Care Staff is confident they can haul out of the pool when they are tired.
Thachers Island, or Thacher, has recently moved to a new enclosure with a slightly deeper pool so he can have more space to build up his strength. Thacher and all of the seals at NMLC often receive ‘fishicles’, which are fish frozen into a large ice block, to help keep their water cool. They also act as an EED, or environmental enrichment device, because once the ice melts, they have an extra fish to play with or eat! Thacher leaves no remnants of his fishicles in his pool, meaning that he is able to correctly position the fish in his mouth and eat them in the water!
Wings Neck, or Wings, as always, is loving her pool, and often rests in the water to stay cool. Animal Care Staff continues to learn more about her ear condition, Otitis Media. Using technology like radiographs, which capture photographs with X-rays, we hope to better understand how she is progressing. Wings’ condition and treatment remind all of us that wildlife rehabilitation not only helps return these animals to their natural habitat, but also provides the opportunity for scientists to learn more about marine animals in a way that is not always feasible in the ocean.
Our final patient, Tutis, is our last Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle of the season. He continues to be treated for osteolysis after initially being admitted for cold stunning in November. As the summer interns wrap up their projects with NMLC, we are excited to see how Tutis will like the new EED some of the interns have been working on! New EEDs not only provide a healthy change in our patients’ environments for them to explore, but also a new place to rest or to feel safe in their enclosure.
Our patients at National Marine Life Center can progress so much in just a few days, so be sure to keep up with our posts and updates on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, too! We appreciate all of your support during this busy time.
Posted by Bradlie M.
Bradlie is a summer intern who recently graduated from Boston College with a degree in Biology.