Patient Update 7/19/19
Welcome back to the National Marine Life Center’s Patient Update! Summer is in full swing here at NMLC with our Discovery Center & Gift Shop now open for the season. Stop by daily from 10am – 5pm to learn about our current patients, get the inside scoop on what a normal day is like within our hospital, and check out our live-stream camera where you can view some of our patients in real time!
And the announcement you’ve probably all been waiting for, our harbor seal pup season has officially begun here at NMLC! With this subject in mind, one of the main topics for this update will be human interaction cases, as you will notice that we have a few of them. Read on for more info!
Where in the World is Harbor Seal Jones?
As some of you may know, Jones originally came to us late last May as a pup, and was released in November with a satellite tracking device due to his inner ear infection: Otitis media. Jones restranded in January in Old Orchard Beach, Maine and was picked up by Marine Mammals of Maine before being transported back to our care. He was found to have a heavy parasitic load, wounds on his face and side, and continued to show symptoms related to his inner ear infection. After three months of care, Jones was deemed re-releasable when his canalography showed an improvement in his ear infection. He was more than eager to head back out to the big blue and we have been posting updates of his satellite pings since his 4/24 release.
After almost 8 months from the original application – what is considered a very long time for a satellite tag to stay on – Jones’ tag stopped transmitting. Recently, an IFAW team headed out to survey a few Cape Cod haul outs for entanglements and upon reviewing photos spotted a harbor seal amongst the greys. Sure enough, that harbor seal had a white flipper tag – the tag color belonging to NMLC – and upon review the number on the tag belonged to our very own Jones looking healthy and happy!
On 6/18 we said goodbye to our beloved grey seal Hagrid. After a tail amputation, rehabilitation to good health and building up a healthy blubber layer, he was approved for release. Grey seals are residents of the Cape Cod region so there is a high chance that Hagrid will stay within local waters. Maybe we’ll spot him again hauled out somewhere on the Cape!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with his case, Hagrid, a male grey seal weanling, was our first grey seal of 2019. Stranding as a pup in Newbury, MA on 2/28, Hagrid was rescued and brought to us by Seacoast Science Center (SSC) with some of his white lanugo still present. Hagrid came to us underweight with a severe tail injury (not to be confused with his flippers) that ultimately resulted in an amputation which healed nicely. After finally reaching appropriate weight, we said our farewells at one of our public releases at Scusset Beach State Reservation.
Snitch, our male yearling harp seal, wasted no time at the release and headed straight out for the big blue! Since harp seals are classified as ice seals, Snitch would have naturally headed towards colder water for the summer.
Not familiar with Snitch’s story? Although Snitch had a fairly short rehabilitation stay with us, he was admitted in very poor condition. Stranding on 5/8 in Higgins Beach, ME in a busy area with a lot of people, Snitch was originally observed looking alert but was immediately rescued by Marine Mammals of Maine (MMoME) when he began to decline rapidly. Snitch was admitted to NMLC on 5/10 and upon admit was found to have a significant amount of parasites (lungworms) which made it difficult for him to breathe, as well as dehydration, and liver disease. He was treated for his medical problems after stabilization through extensive fluid therapy. It was beneficial for his treatment that he was admitted in robust body condition, what is considered a normal body weight.
DID YOU KNOW? A common misconception at releases is that our seals don’t want to leave us. When it comes time for release, our seals are happy and healthy and belong in their natural habitat. For some of our patients, particularly pups that haven’t been exposed to the ocean before they came into rehab, it does take some time for them to acclimate to their surroundings. This translates to them making their way out of the crate and down to the water a bit slower than others may have. Nevertheless, they always make their way down and find their “footing” and off they go! Tip: when you see one of our seals exhibiting this behavior at a release, make sure to abide by our roped off area and keep your distance, and always be sure to keep voices down to reduce stress.
Fang, our male grey seal weanling, and Madame Olympe Maxime, our female grey seal weanling were released together on 7/10 in Westport, MA during a private release with NMLC staff and volunteers. Once Fang’s first poolmate, Snitch was released, him and Madame Maxime were paired up and the two of them got along swimmingly, so it was only appropriate that they head off together!
Madame Maxime was very eager to get back out to the ocean and was in the water within seconds, a very successful release scenario for our human interaction case. Fang looked on and took notes, and once Madame was submerged, he made his way out of the crate and back into the water fairly quickly as well. We are so proud of both of them.
Fang was transported to us from Seacoast Science Center on 4/26. He was first observed on Salisbury Beach looking very lethargic and thin. After being monitored for two days it was decided that intervention was necessary and Fang was then rescued off of a beach in Newburyport, NH and transported to NMLC. Upon admit he was found to have a heavy parasitic load and pneumonia.
Madame Olympe Maxime, a female grey seal weanling, stranded on 4/23 in Amagansett, NY and was rescued by Riverhead Foundation. She was transported to our hospital and admitted on 4/25 with a high fever, heavy parasitic load, wounds scattered across the body, and most importantly a severe entanglement wound on the neck due to monofilament (fishing line) and rope. Madame came in with a few deep wounds on her left front flipper that are believed to be bite wounds from a canine species. She was found to have an infected nail when it began to bleed profusely shortly after she was admitted. The bleeding was caused by an underlying abscess that was removed and has healed nicely since. Additionally, Madame came to us suffering from severe eye trauma on her right eye which ended up rupturing during her rehabilitation, but her largest injury was the strangulation wound around her neck from the fishing line.
Always be sure to properly dispose of your fishing gear and any other plastics – even better, try to cut down on your plastic use for animals like Madame!
Nymphadora Tonks, our female harp seal weanling, came to us from Marine Mammals of Maine on 5/28 where she was triaged temporarily. Originally stranding as a pup on 5/22, Tonks was rescued by Seacoast Science Center from Jenness Beach in Rye, NH on 5/23 after being observed as underweight, and being pushed around by the waves and coughing up water. It is suspected that Tonks is unfortunately a human interaction case and that someone placed her back into the water when she was in desperate need of rest. Given that the pupping season for this species ends in March, it is unusual to have such a young harp this late in the year. More importantly, harp seals are typically born in the North Atlantic and Arctic regions. It is rather rare for harp seals to give birth here in the Northeast Atlantic region.
Due to Tonks being in a region far southern from where she should be, our Vets and Animal Care staff decided to release her north of Massachusetts. Tonks recovered very quickly within our care, and after learning how to eat fish on her own she started to pack on the pounds. Tonks was released privately on 7/17 in Rye, NH with a small team of NMLC, SSC and MMoME staff, all of whom were involved in Tonks’ rescue and rehabilitation.
DID YOU KNOW? Seals are semi-aquatic, which means it’s completely normal for them to spend time on land. Although avid swimmers, seals haul out onto beaches or rocks in order to rest. Being approached/handled and forced or placed into the water can be harmful or even fatal, especially in cases involving pups. This easily could have been the case for Tonks if SSC had not stepped in.
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It’s finally pup season! Who’s excited? As with anything else in a rehabilitation center, harbor seal pup season comes with its highs and lows and before I introduce our seal pup class of 2019 I would like to point out some very important – but not as well known as they should be – facts!
What to do if you see a pup/weanling out on the beach:
- *STAY BACK 150 ft!*
- Do not touch the seal
- Do not try to move them or put them back into the water
- Do not pour water on them
- Do not cover them with a blanket or towel – they can overheat easily
- Do not try to feed them
- If you feel like they’re sick/injured/need help, call your local stranding hotline
Why these rules? I want to help.
- It is illegal to be within 150 ft of any marine mammal in accordance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). If they notice you, you’re too close!
- Human interaction can cause severe stress for these animals. For pups in particular, being approached by people often leads to abandonment by the mother who may be out of eyesight for you, but you are not always out of eyesight for her – an unfortunate but common issue every pup season
- Moving seals / placing them back into the water denies them much needed rest and forces them to expel even more energy that they don’t have – think of Tonks!
Lily Potter, a female harbor seal pup, stranded in Milbridge, ME on 6/5 and was rescued by College of the Atlantic (COA) after being observed looking thin and dehydrated with a partial lanugo coat. She was triaged by Marine Mammals of Maine before being admitted to NMLC on 6/16. She was severely hyperglycemic and had no stable metabolism, which required frequent administration of additional supplements to keep her alive. All of our pups start off with no water access and gradually work their way up from kiddie pools to full pods before making their way to the pre-release pool. We are proud to announce that Lily has been getting ~10 minutes of swim time 3x times per day with her pod now halfway full! For videos of Lily’s swim time please check out our Facebook.
Fleur Delacour, a female harbor seal pup, stranded on Philbrick’s beach in Rye, NH on 6/27. She was rescued and transported to us by our friends at the Seacoast Science Center all within the same day. Fleur was admitted to us in emaciated body condition, with injuries on her rear flippers, and her right eye missing.
Fleur has been making great progress with her assist feeds – where one of our Animal Care staff members helps them to learn how to swallow whole fish on their own. Due to issues regulating her body temperature, Fleur has only recently gained water access through short swim times during the day. Check out Fleur’s progress with assist feeds on our Instagram!
DID YOU KNOW? Seals do fine without one of their eyes, just like Hagrid does fine without his tail! We have had a few eye trauma cases just within the past year alone, all of which are great examples of seals who are out in the ocean thriving. For example, last year’s harbor pup season brought us Chicopee whose globe ruptured in one eye, and recently we released Madame Maxime who had both eyes, but only one that she could see out of. Fleur is already showing that she doesn’t need both eyes to do well.
Bellatrix Lestrange, a female harbor seal weanling, was rescued by Seacoast Science Center on 7/6. She was found as a pup on Salisbury Beach, in Salisbury, MA, looking both emaciated and lethargic, and is a suspected human interaction case – for the full story check out SSC’s Facebook. Upon admit to NMLC the same day, Bellatrix was found to be bleeding from the mouth but has shown signs of improvement during her rehabilitation with us thus far.
Bellatrix has done well with her assist feeds and has worked her way up to getting 5 minute swim times 2x per day with a few inches of water. Slow and steady progress!
DID YOU KNOW? Placing seals back in the water is unfortunately not the only human interaction case we see. Approaching any age class of seal in general inflicts unnecessary stress on the animal, but in the case of younger seals approaching a pup often also results in abandonment.
James Potter, a male harbor seal pup, stranded in Bar Harbor, ME on 6/10 and was rescued by College of the Atlantic on 6/12. He was admitted to NMLC on 6/16 with Lily after being triaged by Marine Mammals of Maine. James was rescued after being observed with his umbilical cord still present and discharge coming from his umbilicus. Upon admit, he was found to have an unstable metabolism, severe hyperglycemia, a high temperature, and soon developed an ocular eye lesion, something many of you may be familiar with as a few of our harbor pups last year had this as well (Sugar, Bear, and Jones).
Unfortunately as mentioned above, pup season has its highs and lows. After a short period of time in rehabilitation, James started to display severe neurological symptoms such as head weaving, shaking of the head and body, fast eye movements, and extreme lethargy. In this case, humane euthanasia was the best choice for James as his neurological problems worsened and he became fully unresponsive. Thank you all so much for your continued support.
Ladybug, one of our many cold-stunned Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, originally stranded on Campground Beach, Eastham, MA on 11/17 and was brought to us by the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) on 11/23.
Tunbridge, a Kemp’s ridley, was brought to us by NEAQ on 11/23 due to cold stunning and pneumonia. As of this week, Tunbridge is still showing possible evidence of pneumonia which we can see through the use of radiographs (x-rays), but is otherwise in good health.
Scuttle, another Kemp’s ridley, was brought to us by NEAQ on 11/23 due to cold-stunning and a fractured right radius and ulna. Scuttle is swimming well but we are giving the bones more time to heal before release. He is one of only three turtles left and we are aiming for a local summer release, stay tuned!
Interested in joining our team?
We offer both a Marine Animal Rehabilitation & Education internship and a marketing internship. Applications for our spring semester are due by 11/1/19. Our spring semester is our longest, but offers a wider range of hands on experience as it overlaps with our cold-stunning season! Click here for more information.
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, and fundraising.
To find out more please click here.
Posted by Kali P.
Kali is an NMLC Animal Care Team Crew Leader and IFAW Marine Mammal Necropsy Intern with a Chemistry degree from Salem State University and a background in marine biology.