Patient Update: July 22nd, 2020



It’s been another busy week at the National Marine Life Center! We admitted another harbor seal, bringing us to a total of 14 seals! This is the most seals we’ve ever had at one time, so our staff, volunteers, and interns are busy keeping up with their growing stomachs and progress.

Bird, Plum, Ned, and Monomoy continue to enjoy their large space in one of the pre-release pools, DJF.  They are mass fed three times each day, during which they can compete for fish while limiting interaction with the feeders. In fact, the Patient Ward is cleared of all staff, volunteers, and interns during these mass feeds, so the seals don’t associate any human behavior or presence with their food. These precautions allow for a smoother transition back to the wild, once they finally reach their goal weight of 25 kg!

Monomoy (top) swimming in DJF with Bird (bottom).
Bird in DJF.
Bird resting in the pool.
Ned, Bird, and Plum in the pool.

The seals in Pup Room have made significant progress this week, too! Bug is doing very well with his mass feeds, and now has a strong presence in the pool at 20 kg. He is nearly ready to be moved to a large, pre-release pool so he can have more space as he grows. However, he will likely have to wait until another of his roommates is ready to join him, so he’s not alone in a large pool. 

Montauk has also made exciting progress this week! He has finally started eating fish on his own, or in mass feedings, instead of receiving assisted feedings. This change means he has been learning from his roommates, and will be able to gain more weight as he eats more. Seguin continues to improve during her feeds, often eating fish that her roommates have dropped while feeding. This behavior shows that she can position fish in her mouth correctly, and is nearly ready to be completely mass fed. We hope she’ll soon master mass feeding so she can be ready to join Bug in a big pool! The fourth roommate, Cleveland, still needs practice with his feeds while in the water. Because he eats a little slower than Bug, Montauk, and Seguin, he’s often separated from them while feeding so none of the other seals steal his fish. Hopefully he will continue to learn from his roommates so he can compete for fish, too! 

Seguin and Bug in Pup Room.
Montauk in the pool and Seguin lounging around.
Montauk (left) and Cleveland (right) in the pool.

All of the seals in Pup Room have transitioned to a feeding schedule of three meals each day instead of four meals. This reduces our interaction with the seals and allows them to eat more fish each meal, mimicking what their feeding would be like in the wild. 

Owl continues to enjoy his swim times with his roommate Thacher Island, or Thacher, though they often use two separate pools so they can have their own space. Owl is still being treated for his tremors and eye infection as Animal Care staff closely monitors him. Thacher has been progressing well and likes to haul out onto the platform in his enclosure. He has been able to receive his feedings in the water, which shows he is growing more comfortable with moving fish into his mouth on his own. This week, Thacher was also diagnosed with parasitic nematodes and trematodes, which are often found in the stomach or liver of seals. He is being treated for these parasites and is on his way to a full recovery!

Owl getting up close to the camera.
Thacher entering his kiddie pool.

In Pod 1, Wings Neck continues to be treated for her ruptured eardrum and Otitis Media. These are conditions that must be closely monitored and treated before she is able to be released. Seals rely heavily on their ability to dive in the ocean, as far down as 300 meters (1000 feet) deep. If her ear conditions are not properly healed, the increased pressure of these deeper waters in the wild could impact her ability to eat. With Animal Care staff’s treatment plan, we hope she continues to make progress so she can be cleared for release. 

Wings Neck in her Pod, with visible discharge from her left ear.

Prudence is still learning how to eat fish, and needs some guidance positioning the fish in her mouth. To help ease her into the proper techniques, she receives two whole fish feedings and two tubing feedings each day. This helps ensure she isn’t stressed as she continues to learn. 

Prudence resting in her Pod.

Since arriving two weeks ago, Derby, our suspected Seal Pox patient, has made immense progress. His wounds have significantly improved and he is more alert every day. This week, he’s started to regain enough strength to receive monitored pool access. During his swim times, he often receives air fish to play with, which are fish injected with air that float on the surface. These are used to get the seals interested in the fish, even though they might not be ready to eat them on their own. 

Derby in his enclosure. Compared to previous Patient Updates, Derby’s wounds have significantly healed.

A spot biopsy is being performed this week to confirm whether or not he has Seal Pox. With a confirmed diagnosis, we will be able to formulate an appropriate plan of care moving forward.

Our newest admit, Marblehead, is a female Harbor Seal weanling, who joined us on July 14th after stranding in Hampton, New Hampshire. She was rescued by Seacoast Science Center after regressing from being alert to becoming flat and unresponsive within a few hours on the beach. She has a few minor wounds that are being monitored. We continue to learn about her behavior and health each day, so stay tuned for more updates on her!

Marblehead soon after her arrival.

Our last hospital patient, Tutis, is the last of our Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles from this season. He continues to be treated for osteolysis, and is receiving antibiotic medication, antifungal medication, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication for his condition, as well as daily supplements. These supplements, like Calcium and Vitamin B, help provide necessary nutrients that Tutis might not receive from his squid meals at the hospital. 

Tutis waiting to receive treatment.

Keep a lookout for more updates next week, as our seals progress more and more everyday! And don’t forget to check out our daily posts on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok for more seal and turtle content! 

Posted by Bradlie M. 

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