Welcome to the National Marine Life Center’s first patient update of the decade! We’ve had a pretty busy season here already—from caring for cold-stunned sea turtles to treating sick and injured seals—we are looking forward to another year filled with science, education, and of course rehabilitation and release of marine wildlife!
With each new year comes a new naming theme for our seal patients, and this year we are very excited to be naming them after Lighthouses of New England! Some of you may be familiar with our 2019 theme, Harry Potter. We have just one seal left from the Harry Potter era, and that is
Miss Helga Hufflepuff!
Helga is a female juvenile harbor seal that stranded on Mayo Beach, Wellfleet in November 2019. She was monitored for a few days due to possessing a flipper tag: a plastic tag attached to the rear flippers of seals that have been released after rehabilitation or for research purposes. These flipper tags are used to re-identify seals throughout the stranding network; they let us know what animal it is and what organization the animal came from if they strand or are seen again in the wild! We quickly learned that Helga was originally rehabilitated and released by our colleagues at Marine Mammals of Maine in September 2019, but due to a respiratory infection among other things, she re-stranded in Wellfleet thereafter. Helga was rescued by our friends at IFAW Marine Mammal Rescue on November 23rd and transported to NMLC right away! Helga came to us underweight, anemic, dehydrated, lethargic and suffering from pneumonia and nasal discharge. Fast forward a few months, and Helga has gained almost 16 kg (35 lbs), has overcome anemia and her respiratory issues, and is now in our pre-release pool getting ready to swim wild and free once again! She enjoys swimming and interacting with the EED’s (environmental enrichment device) we provide her. Stay tuned for future release details on Helga Hufflepuff!
Our first two patients of 2020 both came to us on January 11th. Pogue, a female Grey seal pup, was found on Chappaquiddick Island on Martha’s Vineyard malnourished and dehydrated.
This feisty girl always keeps us on our toes, and like many grey seals, she loves vocalizing a lot! Pogue has already made progress by leaps and bounds and is now in the pre-release pool with Helga eating fish entirely on her own. Once she gains a little more weight, she’ll be on her way back to her ocean home!
Next up is Brant, a male Grey seal pup that stranded on Madaket Beach, Nantucket. He was rescued by our friends at Marine Mammal Alliance Nantucket due to a severe wound at the base of his skull, in addition to severe dehydration and respiratory distress. His large wound is believed to have been inflicted by another adult male grey seal, based on the size, shape and location of it.
Though his prognosis was grim in the beginning, we are very happy to update that with proper treatments, Brant’s wound has been healing up nicely and he is currently learning to eat fish on his own!
Our next patient is another male Grey seal pup that was rescued by Marine Mammal Alliance Nantucket on January 24th. Quoddy came to us extremely thin (emaciated), exhausted and dehydrated. In his first few weeks here, he had some trouble moving around in his enclosure due to immobility of his front flippers and overall weakness, but with lots of rest and a feeding schedule he has gained over 3 kg (~7 lbs) and can now move around with more ease! He enjoys spending time on the heating pad in his enclosure, as he still needs to build up his blubber layer. Quoddy still has a long way to go with his rehabilitation journey, but we have high hopes that he will become another one of our success stories!
This past week was a whirlwind for us, as we admitted four seals within just a few days! On February 8th we admitted Boon, a male Grey seal pup that was rescued by our friends at Seacoast Science Center in New Hampshire after being found in the road. Though initially deemed releasable after being relocated by SSC, Boon ended up in the road a second time, where the decision was made to bring him to NMLC for treatment of an opacity in his eye, dehydration and a low body weight. Boon is sharing an enclosure with his new friend Quoddy, where they can encourage each other’s recovery!
On February 11th, IFAW Marine Mammal Rescue not only rescued Butler, a male Grey seal pup from Fairhaven, but also Nauset, a female juvenile Hooded seal that was named after the beach she stranded on. Nauset was stranded on the beach for multiple days before she was reported and brought to us. She was found to have a very heavy parasitic load, extreme dehydration and lethargy, and was suffering from internal bleeding. Unfortunately during the night into February 14th, Nauset passed away.
The reasoning for her death is currently not determined, however our team will soon be conducting a necropsy on her to see what may have ultimately caused her death. A necropsy helps us understand why an animal may have died; it also provides a learning opportunity and teaches us how to improve and advance treatment in future patients. We thank you for your continued support and understanding during this hard time.
In regards to Butler, he came to us with poor blood values and a very low body weight. However, he has already made significant progress in respect to the fact that he is stable and active and has started eating fish on his own! Stay tuned for more updates on Butler as well as pending necropsy findings on Nauset.
Last but certainly not least is Nubble, a male juvenile Hooded seal that was rescued from Hampton Beach by Seacoast Science Center on February 12th! Nubble was extremely lethargic, had minor wounds on his flippers and chin, was suffering from respiratory distress and sand impaction. Over the past week however, he has been resting up and is back to eating fish on his own! Nubble enjoys swimming in the Pup Room pool and playing with the ice block and fishsicle enrichment that is provided for him daily. Weighing in at 28.4 kg, Nubble is in very good body condition, so as soon as he is stable enough to thrive on his own, he’ll be heading back to his arctic home!
In the summer months, sea turtles swim up towards Maine for feeding and then begin their journey back south once the cool weather begins to roll in. Due to the unique hook shape of Cape Cod, sea turtles can end up trapped here, unable to continue swimming south. Being reptiles, sea turtles are unable to regulate their body temperature and therefore become cold stunned when the ocean water turns cold, often washing up on the beaches of Cape Cod. The Cape is a hotspot for sea turtle strandings, and each year hundreds are found on our beaches.
2019 was a big year for NMLC as we became a triage facility, meaning that we were able to care for turtles that were transported to us directly off the beach. Typically, turtles are rescued from the beach and sent to a triage center, such as the New England Aquarium, where the turtles are stabilized before being transported to a long term rehabilitation center like NMLC!
This past season, we had a mix of Kemps Ridley and Loggerhead sea turtles in our care. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles are not only the smallest of all sea turtle species, they are also the most critically endangered! On February 3rd, we were able to successfully release three Kemps Ridley sea turtles Emerald (#41), Blakhart (#43), and Kiko (#46) as well as our Loggerhead sea turtle Bruce (#52) further south in Florida!
We currently have four Kemp’s (Tutis #42, #44, #45 and Milo #47) that are still on the road to recovery before they begin their journey to the sunny south! Tutis suffers from osteolysis, which is the degradation of bone tissue; #44 has some wounds on its carapace that are still healing; and Tutis, #45 and Milo all have swollen flippers that still need time to heal. All 4 of our turtles enjoy eating squid and swimming in ST2, one of our large pre-release pools!
Interested in symbolically adopting a past or current patient? Seal and Sea Turtle adoptions are available here.
That’s it for our first patient update of the season, but be sure to check in next week for our new update on our marine animals here at NMLC!
Inspired by our updates and interested in joining our team?
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.
We offer both a Marine Animal Rehabilitation & Education Internship, as well as a Marketing Internship. Applications for our Summer semester are due by March 1st, 2020.
For more information, please click here.
Posted by Kim T.
Kim is a Spring Intern who recently graduated from Bridgewater State University with a degree in Biology.