Home Latest Stories Stranding Center Releases Rehabilitated Seals

Stranding Center Releases Rehabilitated Seals

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This photo shows a grey seal shortly after being released by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. (Photos and video courtesy of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center)

By MADDY VITALE

The team at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) has been working overtime rescuing injured and sick seal pups stranded on beaches over the winter season.

Some of the young seals have become beached while migrating from New England and even Canada to New Jersey waters.

And on March 25, some of the MMSC staff’s lifesaving efforts came in full view with the release of six seals.

“Our stranding team released a group of six grey seals back to the ocean. Five of the seals had been admitted to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center for various illnesses and injuries,” a statement on the MMSC Facebook page read. “Now, fully recovered and healthy, they made their way back home on a beautiful sunny afternoon. Joining them on the release was a female brought in for a 24-hour observation that was determined to be healthy and was not in need of rehabilitation.”

Two of the seals were from Sea Isle City and there was one each from Point Pleasant Beach, Delaware, and Island Beach State Park, along with the sixth that was not in need of rehabilitation and released with them.

But while six seals were released after treatment at the center, others have come in just as quickly, keeping the MMSC staff busy.

As of Friday afternoon, there were 16 seals being rehabilitated at the center. The latest additions include a female grey seal pup stranded in Ocean City at First Street on March 26. Another came in the same day from Long Branch in Monmouth County.

According to the MMSC website, the seal pup from Ocean City weighed 52.2 pounds and was suffering from a wound on the back of her neck that had developed an infected abscess. She also had swelling in both of her front flippers. The pup is currently being treated and technicians are assist-feeding her.

Last month, another pup found in Ocean City was treated at the center. On Feb. 7, a male grey seal was discovered wandering down West Avenue in Ocean City. He was between four and six weeks old and survived a journey possibly from Maine or farther north. When the pup was rescued, he was only 28.8 pounds, roughly 20 pounds underweight, according to the MMSC.

He was recovering and then on Feb. 19, he showed a “very sudden and rapid decline, and despite the extraordinary efforts by our staff to resuscitate him, the pup passed away only a few minutes later,” the MMSC staff said. A necropsy is being conducted to determine why he died.

Over the past few months, the MMSC has been near capacity with rescued seal pups recovering from injuries or sickness.

MMSC staff explains on the website about the arduous journey for seal pups during their migration and why some of them need to be rescued. During the migration in the winter months, pups make a long swim from their birthing grounds in New England and Canadian waters to New Jersey.

“Along the way, these recently weaned pups are learning to hunt for their food on their own and evade predators. By the time they reach our beaches, they need their rest, and some pups that have not fared as well as the others on their journey, need MMSC’s help,” MMSC staff said.

Grey seals nurse for only about two weeks, and once weaned they are completely independent. They weigh about 30-35 pounds when they are born and by the time they are weaned, they can triple their body weight. The pups will live off of their fat reserves as they learn to hunt for fish on their own, according to the MMSC website.

According to the MMSC, seals are not like dolphins in that they don’t typically swim in groups. They head “north to the Nantucket Sound, Gulf of Maine and Canadian waters where they will congregate in colonies seasonally to breed and give birth.”

The team at the MMSC captured the inspiring video of the seals returning to the ocean on March 25.

But some of the seals didn’t make a fast dash to the water.

“The female from Point Pleasant, now weighing nearly 80 pounds, was the first to leave her crate. She had become the most dominant seal in the pool so it was interesting to watch her check out all the crates and not leave the beach until the final seal entered the water,” the MMSC team wrote on the center’s Facebook page. “She was last spotted interacting with one of the males, with both seals continuing to splash each other in the distance.”

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.

This seal pup was found on March 26 in Ocean City and is recovering at the center.
Paid for by Michael DeVlieger