A lot has happened here at NMLC since our last update in October. Montauk, a harbor seal who was recently released after restranding due to human interaction, has returned to our hospital for a third time. After being released on Scusset Beach on October 15, 2020 with Marblehead and Derby, two other rehabilitated harbor seals, Montauk was seen for several days around Scorton Creek in Sandwich, MA. During his time here, he experienced multiple human interaction and dog interaction events. Representatives from NMLC and our partners at IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) monitored Montauk and his behavior while in Scorton Creek, attempting to minimize human interaction. From Scorton Creek, Montauk traveled to Town Neck Beach in Sandwich, and was found to have a fishing lure lodged in his rear flipper. After careful consideration and planning, IFAW was finally able to collect Montauk on October 24, 2020. The fishing lure was successfully removed and he was transported to NMLC. During his time in the ocean, he had lost nearly 7 kg, or about 16 lbs. Living in the wild at three different times in his life, he has been impacted by human interaction each time (see our previous Patient Updates from 7/8/20 and 10/2/20). Montauk’s compelling story is a reminder to everyone that we share spaces with marine animals, and they should be respected and given space, just as we would want for ourselves.
Since arriving back at NMLC, Montauk has gained nearly all of his lost weight back, and enjoys using his space in the big pool for swimming in circles and porpoising, a behavior in which seals jump out of the water like a porpoise. In the meantime, Montauk is being closely monitored as staff evaluates options for his future care.
We also had a new seal patient admit! Race Point, a male harbor seal weanling, arrived at NMLC after stranding in Provincetown, MA on November 5, 2020. He was brought to us by IFAW with several puncture wounds on his flippers and dorsum, an ear infection, and was visibly emaciated and lethargic. He was being treated for his wounds and ear infection, and received medication for parasites. He received limited swim time to ensure he didn’t exhaust himself, but showed no hesitation in eating whole fish in his pool. Upon further investigation into Race Point’s stranding, it was revealed that he was a previous rehabilitation patient at Marine Mammals of Maine (MMoMe) and was released earlier this fall. Race Point has since been returned to MMoMe where he will finish his rehabilitation at his original care facility. We hope to continue to watch him regain his strength!
In addition to the need of stranded seals, sea turtle cold-stunning season has officially begun on Cape Cod. Volunteers with Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary have been hard at work monitoring bayside beaches for stranded sea turtles, including Kemp’s ridley, loggerhead, and green sea turtles. From there, sea turtles are sent to NMLC or our partners at New England Aquarium for triage and rehabilitation, potentially later transferring to facilities in warmer climates for long-term rehabilitation.
Last week we admitted 49 sea turtles in one day and had a total of 58 sea turtles onsite all together! We also surpassed the milestone of admitting over 100 patients this year between all of the seals, sea turtles, and native turtles that have been in our care. This is a first here at NMLC! Within a few days most of the turtles were stabilized and 35 turtles were flown down south with help from Turtles Fly Too. The remaining turtles were not stable enough to be transported immediately, but with effective care, were relocated soon after. Unfortunately, not all turtles survive the complications involved with being cold stunned. This reminds us of the difficulties faced in wildlife rehabilitation, especially when caring for endangered species in poor health. We look to the future of this cold-stunning season to help as many sea turtle patients as possible.
One especially exciting sea turtle patient admitted last week was number 44, a green sea turtle, rescued from Truro, MA by Mass Audubon Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and brought to NMLC on November 16th. This turtle was NMLC’s first ever green sea turtle patient! This green sea turtle arrived cold-stunned, severely hypoglycemic, and weighed just 3.1 kg, but was alert and responsive. From this point, number 44’s body temperature was slowly increased over several days using our climate-controlled incubator. In addition, #44 received emergency care for hypoglycemia over the course of three days. It underwent swim tests in water of increasing temperature depending on the daily condition. After regaining its strength, number 44 was transferred to a facility in Florida for long-term rehabilitation.
As the season continues, we hope to play a significant role in helping this year’s stranded seals and cold-stunned sea turtles. We’ll be back with more updates soon! If you’re interested to hear more updates on our patients and what we do at NMLC, feel free to check out our Facebook, Instagram, and Tik Tok!
Posted by Bradlie M. and Meaghan K.
Bradlie is an intern who recently graduated from Boston College with a degree in Biology. Meaghan is an intern who is majoring in Marine and Freshwater Biology at Colgate University.