Bird and Plum have been progressing quickly after moving to the large pool. This week, Bird started mass feeding alongside Plum. This means she has mastered the ability to position and eat fish in the water all on her own! However, the girls were not alone in the big pool for very long. Ned and Monomoy both joined the pool after proving they could also mass feed.
All four seals eat at the same time and they frequently engage in competition over the fish. This is a good behavior to observe as it is preparing the seals for competition in the wild! Plum, Bird, Ned, and Monomoy have also all transitioned from a four-meal schedule to a three-meal one. This transition is significant because it is limiting our interaction with the seals before their release. It is important that seals do not become used to the presence of humans and by limiting our interaction with them, they are less likely to become habituated.
The four seals have also started getting environmental enrichment devices or EEDs. EEDs are similar to toys and encourage typical wild seal behaviors during their rehabilitation process. Two of the seals’ favorite EEDs are a large plastic turtle shell that they enjoy laying on or surfing across the pool as well as a large barrel that functions as a tunnel that they can swim through or rest in underwater!
Owl’s Head has continued to grow over the last week. When Owl first arrived at NMLC, he was the smallest harbor seal pup we ever had. Now, Owl is weighing in at 19.8kg (over 40 lbs)! He continues to be treated for his tremors, although the cause remains unknown. Owl has also just developed a slight eye infection which he has begun receiving a topical ointment for.
Thacher Island has been enjoying his new enclosure with Owl and getting plenty of time to swim each day. Thacher also had his first feed with whole fish this week! He is learning quickly and his infected umbilicus has been slowly healing.
Bug has recently started learning how to mass feed in his pool. He is progressing quickly but has to work on being less distracted by his roommates Seguin, Montauk, and Cleveland. Seguin, who is also being fed in the water, has not yet mastered mass feeding. She is still working on centering the fish in her mouth on her own so she is able to swallow the fish whole instead of mashing it with her teeth.
On the other hand, Cleveland has been struggling with feeding in the water. While he is able to swallow the fish on his own, the other seals tend to distract him. Seguin and Bug really enjoy eating fish and will even try to steal some of Cleveland’s feed! Montauk has not progressed as far as his roommates in feeding. Montauk is still being assisted during his fish feeds but hopefully, he becomes more interested and eager in eating whole fish like his fellow seals soon. However, Montauk has regained his energy, recovering from a viral infection. He loves the water and hardly ever wants to haul out.
Due to the progression of the seals, Bug, Seguin, Cleveland, and Montauk now all have full water access through the night. This is an indication that the seals have proven they can haul out of the water whenever they are tired and not exhaust themselves swimming.
Wings Neck has improved significantly with eating fish! She is now hand-fed fish for all her meals and has even begun learning how to eat fish in the water. Unfortunately, Wings has developed some ear problems. It is suspected that she has a ruptured eardrum and Otitis Media, an infection of the middle ear. She is currently receiving daily treatments.
Last week, Prudence began eating whole fish for the first time. Now, she is getting quicker and better at swallowing on her own. Despite this, Prudence has had some digestive problems, including diarrhea. Similar to humans, when seals are having trouble with food digestion, the vet prescribes Pepto-Bismol as medicine!
Derby has been healing quickly! The daily wound maintenance provided by the Animal Care Team has allowed the bite wounds on Derby’s head to heal as Derby regains his strength and becomes more energetic. This week Derby was also moved to a new enclosure! Due to Derby’s suspected contagious seal pox, Derby does not have any roommates. However, he does enjoy being cooled off with saltwater and laying on wet towels during the warm summer days!
While Tutis is still being treated for his Osteolysis, his front flippers continue to be a bit swollen. However, that doesn’t stop him from swimming all day and eating his favorite food, squid! Also, Tutis will likely get some new EEDs soon. Similar to the seals, sea turtles can also get EEDs as a way to promote natural species behavior. A couple of this year’s summer interns are working on creating new and interesting EEDs for Tutis to make his days more enriching during his rehabilitation!
Thank you so much for all of your continued support! Stay tuned for more updates on our patients in the weeks to come, and keep up with us on Instagram, Tik Tok, and Facebook @nationalmarinelifecenter !
Posted by Meaghan K.
Meaghan is a summer intern who is majoring in Marine and Freshwater Biology at Colgate University.