By MADDY VITALE
A wayward seal pup is recovering at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, two days after he was discovered wandering down West Avenue in Ocean City between 42nd and 43rd Streets.
At between four to six weeks old, the grey seal had already survived a journey possibly from Maine or farther north, only to emerge from the bay heading in the direction of the ocean on Wednesday near 5 p.m. in Ocean City.
He headed down busy West Avenue and nearly got hit by a car. But with the help of police who blocked traffic and good Samaritans who called in the discovery, aid came in the way of the experts from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
Now, the seal pup, who is just 28.8 pounds, 20 pounds under what he should be, is recovering. Once admitted to the ICU at the stranding center in Brigantine, he was given supportive care via tube feeding, a mixture of formula and electrolyte solution for hydration.
“He is getting better. We are watching him very closely,” MMSC Director Sheila Dean said in an interview with OCNJDaily.com on Friday. “He has a long way to go, but it looks pretty good. We are pretty successful with these animals. He is in a low-stress place.”
Mothers of baby seals leave them when they are just two weeks old, Dean said. When the MMSC rescues seals, like other marine animals, they get much-needed rest – a vital part of the recuperation process, she noted.
“They are only bothered by humans for food and other than that, they just need rest and build the food back up and weight back up,” Dean said. “Once on their way to feeling much better, they go in a pool and build their muscles back up and go back into the ocean.”
While the seal pup is not eating small fish as of yet, Dean said she is optimistic that he is on his way to a full recovery. In as little as six weeks, if all goes well, he could be released back into the ocean.
Wednesday’s seal pup discovery is not the first in recent weeks. On Jan. 12, a jogger in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., discovered a female grey seal weighing only 27 pounds.
The female seal is also recovering, Dean said.
Like in Ocean City’s seal pup discovery, the Point Pleasant Beach jogger contacted the authorities and police responded to make sure the seal was safe from harm and awaited the experts from the MMSC.
“People are not allowed to touch them. They are federally protected,” Dean said of the seals. “People should not go near them. Stay 150 feet away and call us.”
The MMSC is cautioning drivers to be careful in the shore communities, especially during coastal flood advisories.
According to the MMSC Facebook page, the recent incidents of two grey seals coming ashore is not unusual behavior.
According to the MMSC Facebook page, “We have had many cases over the past 46 years of seals, especially grey seals, taking a wrong turn and wandering up beach access paths to backyards, parking lots, and roadways. Typically, we see at least one case of a wayward pup stranding in an unusual location every seal season. These pups are born on islands, so when they get lost, their instinct is to keep wandering until they find a body of water.”
To donate to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/njmarinemammal
For the 24-hour Marine Mammal Stranding Center hotline call (609) 266-0538.