Posts Tagged 'seals'



Thoughtful Thursdays: Spotted! Seals Make Their Way to MD Shores

As temperatures continue to drop here in Maryland and along the East Coast, migrating seals are making their way back to our shores!

This seal was spotted near 28th street in Ocean City, Maryland! Photo via Maryland Coastal Bays Program

This seal was spotted near 28th street in Ocean City, Maryland! Photo via Maryland Coastal Bays Program

Seals are semi-aquatic (which means they like to spend part of the time in the water and part of the time on land). They will typically spend multiple days swimming south, only to haul out on beaches, rocks or docks to rest. Seals will also haul out on exceptionally stormy or sunny days – this gives them a chance to wait out the stormy seas or soak up some warm sun, depending on the weather.

If you’re lucky enough to see a seal on the beach in Maryland, it’s best to give the animal lots of space (at least 100 feet of distance) and stay downwind, if possible. By all means, enjoy watching the seals and take plenty of pictures, but please do not disturb them – they have had a long commute from the north.

Furthermore, disturbing the animal by making it change locations or flee back into the water is against the law. Seals are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

A healthy, resting seal will typically be seen in a “banana position” on their side with their head or rear flippers in the air (see photo below). A seal that is entangled in marine debris or has physical wounds will often be resting flat on its stomach and may need medical attention.

posture

If you see a seal that may be in need of medical attention, please call the National Aquarium’s Stranding Hotline at 410-373-0083, or the Natural Resources Police at 1-800-628-9944.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Save the Monk Seals

From Laura Bankey, Director of Conservation

I recently attended the National Wildlife Federation annual meeting. This is the one time during the year that all state affiliates gather to decide areas of focus for NWF in the future. At this meeting, conservation resolutions are proposed, debated, and voted on.

For this year’s consideration, the Conservation Council of Hawaii asked the National Aquarium to be a co-sponsor of the Hawaiian Monk Seal Conservation Resolution. We gladly signed on, and I’m happy to say the resolution was adopted by the affiliates.
Hawaiian Monk Seal

Photo credit: NOAA

With fewer than 1,100 individuals remaining, the Hawaiian monk seal is the most endangered marine mammal in U.S. waters. Monk seals are at risk due to entanglement in fishing gear and other marine debris, overfishing, inadequate marine protected areas, invasive species, canine diseases, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and intentional killing by individuals who view the seals as competition for declining fish stocks.

Monk Seal Entangled

A Hawaiian monk seal entangled in fishing debris. Photo credit: NOAA

The critical status of the Hawaiian monk seal warrants our immediate and prolonged attention. The fate of this species is intricately related to ocean health issues and to additional pressures we humans are subjecting to this animal and the delicate ecosystem it calls home.
We are calling for federal agencies to implement policies and funding mechanisms that will serve to protect Hawaiian monk seal habitat and promote the recovery and reestablishment of the species throughout its native range.

Gearing up for seal season

‘Tis the season for the East Coast to receive guests, in the form of seals. It is a spectacular sight to see these animals come and rest on our local beaches, but the Marine Animal Rescue team would like to keep you safe while you enjoy these animals. Please read over the following information on how to properly view these animals, and how you can help report a sighting or injured seal during this winter season.

Typically in our Mid-Atlantic region, we see four types of seals, including harp, gray, hooded, and harbor seals. These animals are semi-aquatic, meaning they can survive for lengths of time both in water and on land. When we spot seals on land, they are usually resting after long swims, or even warming up in the sunlight. They are generally solitary animals, but will haul out (on land) in larger groups as a survival tactic. Knowing when and where these animals are hauling out is important information for the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) staff. If you would like to report a sighting in your area, feel free to contact the National Aquarium’s Hotline at 410-373-0083.

Along the Eastern Shore, the MARP team has first responders who are specially trained to assess an animal’s condition from a safe distance, and know how to approach the public to teach them more about these animals. The federal law states that “disturbing, harassing, or injuring seals is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.” It is very important that the public knows not to treat the seal like a domesticated animal. This includes but is not limited to feeding, touching, or approaching the seal. When pups are weaned from their mothers they are opportunistic feeders, and if the pup is not yet weaned and human interaction occurs, the mother may abandon the pup.

The most helpful thing you can do for the animal, regardless of the animal’s condition, is to stay at least 150 feet away from the seal and call the MARP hotline at 410-373-0083. Just as dogs will often growl if uncomfortable with humans in their presence, seals will emit a deep growl and show teeth–this means that you are too close to the animal. You should return to a safe distance and ask that others do the same. 

Once our staff and first responders are onsite, the animal’s health and behaviors are evaluated.  The team is looking for any signs of injury such as entanglement, sores or abrasions, open wounds, bleeding, cataracts, dehydration, and emaciation. If injured, the animal will already have a high level of stress due to the fact that it has stranded itself on the beach. Approaching the animal could increase stress even further, making the animal feel the need to flee the area, even when injured. This decreases the chances that the MARP team will be able to help the animal. So keeping your distance is very important for the health and welfare of these animals.

The best way to tell whether an animal is healthy and merely resting, or sick and injured lies within its posture. When a seal is lying in a “banana-shaped” position, the animal is simply resting and will more than likely return to the water when it’s ready.

If a seal is lying in a “bear rug” position with its stomach and head lying on the ground, the animal is in need of further monitoring and, potentially rehabilitation.

As a parting thought, the MARP team would like to remind everyone that it is never a good idea to try to approach, feed, or touch any wild animal. Wild animals, including seals, carry diseases that can be transmitted to humans. If you find a wild animal, the best thing to do is contact the appropriate authorities for information. We recommend starting with your local Animal Control officers. These are trained experts with knowledge of local species and connections to other wildlife experts for unusual cases.

Thoughtful Thursdays: Help Us Heal the Seals!

Enjoy, Respect, ProtectGoing “green” isn’t about changing your entire lifestyle all at once. A sustainable lifestyle is achieved by making a series of Thoughtful Choices. Each week, on Thursdays, we will share a simple tip for how we can all help keep our planet healthy.

Our Choice
Since 1991, the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program has responded to more than 480 animals in distress and has rehabilitated and released nearly 100 marine animals back to their natural environment. Research, satellite tag tracking, and outreach education are also significant components of this program.

Your Choice
MARP needs a new hospital pool for rehabbing sick and injured seals. You can support our Marine Animal Rescue Program and local Baltimore-area businesses by donating to our Heal the Seals campaign through GiveCorps.

With GiveCorps, you can support causes that move you, and get rewarded for your generosity with great deals from local merchants. Today’s deal is $5 off at Bonjour French Bakery Cafe!

Healthy animals make their way home

It’s been an exciting week for the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program, as they have traveled across Maryland to release six rehabilitated animals back to their ocean habitat!

Last Friday, the team traveled to Ocean City, Maryland, to release Guinness, the juvenile gray seal that originally stranded in Kittyhawk, North Carolina, on March 17, and days later came to the National Aquarium for rehabilitation.

Watch a video of Guinness’ release:

Just two days later, the team traveled to Point Lookout State Park in Scotland, Maryland, to release five rehabilitated Kemp’s ridley sea turtles into the Bay. The five turtles, nicknamed Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph, Frosty, and Buddy after winter characters, were part of a larger group of cold-stunned turtles that came to the Aquarium from New England in December. As we’ve shared over the past six months, it has been a long journey for these endangered turtles. The release was certainly a celebration for our MARP team, and the hundreds of people who gathered on the beach to help send the turtles back to sea!

Watch a video of the releases:

Our friends at Oceana joined us for the turtle releases to help educate people about their save the sea turtles campaign, which is dedicated to the protection and restoration of sea turtle populations in the world’s oceans. The campaign works to reduce sea turtle bycatch in fisheries, protect sea turtle habitat and develop legislation to protect sea turtles.

Whenever financially and ethically possible, MARP fits released animals with satellite tags. The tags allow the team to temporarily monitor the migration of reintroduced animals. Whenever the animal surfaces, the tag sends a signal to a satellite, indicating its location.

Thanks to a recent grant, Guinness, Rudolph and Buddy were all affixed with satellite tracking tags. Guinness has already traveled more than 200 miles north, while the turtles seem to be hanging within a 50-mile radius of their release location. You can track their travels on our animal tracking page.

MARP depends on the generosity of volunteers to operate, but medical equipment, medications, and food for caring for these animals is expensive. If you’d like to help support MARP, you can make a donation online, or donate $5 right from your mobile phone by texting ACT to 20222.

A one-time donation of $5 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. All donations must be authorized by the account holder. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is available on most carriers. Donations are collected for the benefit of the National Aquarium by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.hmgf.org/t. Messaging & data rates may apply. You can unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to 20222; text HELP to 20222 for help.

Update from the seal room: Countdown to release!

With the arrival of June and warmer weather, Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) staff and volunteers are preparing to release our rehab patients back to their natural environment. You may remember that eight weeks ago, Guinness the gray seal had a wire placed around his lower jaw to increase stabilization in order to facilitate healthy healing. Well, on June 7, our staff and veterinarians worked together to safely remove the wire to prepare him for his next big step…moving out, back into the wild!

Watch a video about Guinness’s jaw surgery:

Over these last few months, Guinness has made great progress in his healing and overall health. When he came to us in March, he was in great need of some hearty fish and some rest to heal his wounds that he acquired along his travels. Our Marine Animal Rescue Program staff and volunteers have worked nonstop to make sure that he is healthy and ready for release at the end of this month.

Guinness the Gray Seal

You may notice that Guinness no longer has that nice brown/tan coat that he came to us with, but now shows his true gray seal colors in black and gray.  Recently, he went through a molt where he lost all that brown fur to reveal his new black coat! The only evidence of his previous coloration lies around his rear flippers. You may also notice a yellow tag on his flipper. This tag will help us to identify him if he happens to venture into our local waters in the future. Tagging these rehabilitated animals is just one more step that our staff must take to prepare them for their big trip back to the ocean!

While Guinness is still with us for the next couple of weeks, we still need to keep his mind stimulated and his natural behaviors encouraged, which we do with daily environmental enrichment. In this picture you can see a pile of ice cubes with some capelin mixed in. This enrichment is not only a different way for Guinness to get some of his food, but it also helps to cool him down with the outside temperatures rising.

Guinness’s health and weight are much improved, and we at MARP hope to wish him safe travels later this month, pending his exit exam. Vets will check his blood diagnostics one final time, make sure his tag is healing appropriately, and also that the small incision under his jaw where the wire was removed is healed completely. After that, we will transport him to a quiet beach, where he can venture back into his natural environment.

We are also preparing to release the sea turtles that have been in rehabilitation since December. Rescuing and caring for these animals is very costly, and it would not be possible without the support of our volunteers and donations from friends like you. If you’d like to help support MARP, you can make a donation online, or donate $5 right from your mobile phone by texting ACT to 20222.

A one-time donation of $5 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. All donations must be authorized by the account holder. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is available on most carriers. Donations are collected for the benefit of the National Aquarium by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.hmgf.org/t. Messaging & data rates may apply. You can unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to 20222; text HELP to 20222 for help.

The season for helping seals

From Jenn Dittmar and Amber White

Spring is here, and that means thoughts of warmer weather, the beach, and vacations are in the air! But here in the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP), spring is the season for seals. It’s the time of year that seals, and other marine mammal species like whales and dolphins, can be found along the Mid-Atlantic shoreline.

As we’ve noted in past posts, these animals, although beautiful to see in our area, are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and should be left to explore their natural environment without interruption. However, there are occasional circumstances in which a marine mammal is in distress, and is in need of medical care from trained veterinarians.

Already this year, we have received many reports of seal sightings in the region. Our staff and volunteers are specially trained to assess, monitor, and sometimes collect the animals if they are in need of rehabilitation.

"Stewie" lounging by his rehabilitation pool

In the past two weeks, we admitted two grey seals for rehabilitation. Rehabilitating wild animals can be difficult, as there is a need to minimize human contact. Our staff and volunteers work very hard to ensure the animals receive the best possible care while maintaining their natural behaviors and instincts.

On March 14, a young gray seal pup was admitted to our rehabilitation program. He was spotted on the beach in northern Ocean City, and our responders quickly evaluated his overall body condition and behavior. They reported that the animal appeared dehydrated, lethargic, and seemed to be coughing frequently. It quickly became apparent that the seal, later named Stewie, is still quite young. At the time, staff were unsure if he was even old enough to be eating and hunting for food on his own.

Once admitted for rehab and stabilized, staff tried various techniques to encourage his natural food hunting instincts. Those instincts quickly kicked in and he is currently eating 7 pounds of fish per day! He has shown improvements in his health and spends time swimming in his rehab pool.

On March 17, the MARP team received a call from North Carolina asking if we had room to admit an additional gray seal for rehabilitation. Their staff had been monitoring a juvenile gray seal for several days, and noted that the animal was emaciated, dehydrated, and had grown increasingly lethargic over two days.

"Guinness" swimming in his rehabilitation pool.

The seal was initially transported to the Virginia Aquarium’s rehabilitation facility for triage and some much-needed fluids. On March 18, the MARP team, in conjunction with the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Program and the MERR Institute in Delaware, transported the animal to Baltimore.

Appropriately named Guinness, as he stranded on St. Patrick’s Day, the seal was immediately provided triage and supportive care. Upon examination by our veterinary staff, it was determined that Guinness was suffering from pneumonia, a moderate jaw fracture, and an upper respiratory infection. Guinness is responding well to treatment and is currently eating more than 12 pounds of fish per day!

Both seals continue to do well, and we are looking forward to keeping you informed on their progress while they are in rehabilitation with us at the National Aquarium.

In addition to these two seals, we are still caring for the 11 sea turtles that came to us in December from the New England Aquarium. Caring for these animals is very costly. If you’d like to contribute to their care and feeding, you can make a donation online, or donate $5 right from your mobile phone by texting ACT to 20222.

A one-time donation of $5 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your prepaid balance. All donations must be authorized by the account holder. All charges are billed by and payable to your mobile service provider. Service is available on most carriers. Donations are collected for the benefit of the National Aquarium by the Mobile Giving Foundation and subject to the terms found at www.hmgf.org/t. Messaging & Data Rates May Apply. You can unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to 20222; text HELP to 20222 for help.


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