Spring is here, and that means thoughts of warm weather, the beach, and vacations are in the air! But for the Aquarium’s Animal Rescue program, spring is the season for seals. This spring, the National Aquarium has responded to many reports of seal sightings in the region. Animal Rescue staff and volunteers are specially trained to assess, monitor, and sometimes collect the animals if they are in need of rehabilitation. Thanks to the dedication of Animal Rescue staff and volunteers, two grey seals were admitted for rehabilitation in March.
On March 14, a young grey seal pup was picked up in Ocean City, Maryland and transferred to Baltimore for rehabilitation. After being spotted on the beach in northern Ocean City for over 24-hours, responders quickly evaluated his overall body condition and behavior. 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 - Stewie is now eating 7 pounds of fish per day and has gained 12 pounds since being admitted.
In April, Aquarium staff, along with the help of local cardiologist Dr. Steven Rosenthal at Chesapeake Veterinary Cardiology Associates, completed an echocardiogram on Stewie to rule out any possible heart conditions. Stewie continues to heal very well and spends time swimming in his rehab pool.
On March 17, the Animal Rescue team received a call from stranding officials in North Carolina about another grey seal that was in need of rehabilitation. Their staff had been monitoring the juvenile grey seal for several days, and noted that the animal was emaciated, dehydrated, and had grown increasingly lethargic over two days.
The seal was initially transported to the Virginia Aquarium’s rehabilitation facility for triage and some much-needed fluids. On March 18, the Animal Rescue 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 the veterinary staff, it was determined that Guinness was suffering from pneumonia, a moderate jaw fracture, and an upper respiratory infection.
In April, after much consideration and research, Aquarium vets decided that minor surgery to stabilize the seal’s lower jaw was necessary for the fracture to heal properly. The procedure was successful, and Guinness now has a wire holding the left and right sides of his lower jaw together. It will be removed in six to eight weeks, once the jaw has had time to set.
Guinness recovered very well from the procedure, and continues to have a healthy appetite! He has gained 32 pounds since he first entered the rehab program, and enjoys eating ice.
The seals will be in rehabilitation at the Aquarium for the next few months. Animal Rescue hopes to be able to release them back into their ocean habitats this summer.
In addition to these two seals, National Aquarium Animal Rescue is still caring for eight of the 11 sea turtles that came to the National Aquarium in December from the New England Aquarium. Caring for these animals is very costly. The public can contribute to their care and feeding through online donations or by texting the word ACT to 20222.