Otitis media. You may know it as an ear infection from which your child suffered. Did you know that seals get ear infections too? This was the case with Jones and Bear, two harbor seal pups rehabilitated at the National Marine Life Center.
Jones and Bear originally stranded because each had been separated from their mothers. While this can happen for a variety of reasons, sometimes people on the beach get too close to a seal pup and inadvertently scare the mother away. It is important to stay at least 50 yards away from any seal on the beach.
When Jones and Bear first came to NMLC, they were dehydrated, malnourished, and weak. Dedicated animal care staff and volunteers tube fed them a nutritious formula five times a day until they got stronger, then taught them how to eat fish. It was touch and go at first, especially when each pup came down with a seal herpes virus causing respiratory distress and secondary eye infections. Eventually, each pup began to improve thanks to help from caring supporters like you.
But these weren’t the only health challenges that Jones and Bear faced. Each developed a severe middle ear infection called otitis media. As anyone who’s ever had an ear infection knows, they are incredibly painful. Furthermore, they could cause problems in a diving mammal like a seal.
What causes ear infections in seals? Are there environmental factors involved? Could these factors also cause problems for human health? How do we find out more?
Understanding middle ear disease in seals is a focus of NMLC’s science program. After treating Jones and Bear, we decided to release them with satellite tags so we could better understand the long term impacts of the disease. Generous donors helped make this possible.
As of today, Jones and Bear are thriving in the wild. Satellite tag data shows they are actively swimming, diving, feeding. Success! What we learn will help us treat future seals. Ultimately, what we learn will help us better understand the ocean environment on which we all – seals and people – depend.
Your tax deductible year-end donation will advance science and help us discover more about the ocean and the animals that live in it. Please, give today. On behalf of Jones and Bear and future seals, thank you.