Harp Seal on Ice

Last Wednesday, we were able to successfully bring the harp seal that was traversing the Massachusetts coastline to the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut for rehabilitation. You may remember from Connie's earlier post, this seal had gone into the water only to resurface a day later in Quincy. Although it is normal for a seal to be hauled out for a period of time, this seal had larger patches of alopecia (hair loss) and was becoming much more lethargic. Also, one of the eyes was starting to have some off-color discharge that was concerning.

The icy water of the marsh in front of the seal at high tide.

We gathered our materials and were ready to go out in the morning to get the seal. But first, I had to pickup a dead sea turtle in Weymouth. After that was accomplished, I quickly stopped by the area the seal was resting. Unfortunately, we were in the midst of an astronomical high tide and the animal was in an area that was unsafe for us to attempt a rescue at that time.

One of our field volunteers in the area went out at mid-tide and deemed it safe enough to proceed with capture. I and two of the in-house rescue team volunteers headed out of the Aquarium for a second attempt at the rescue. We met up with two field volunteers and went down into the marsh. As I went for a closer look I noticed the seal was chewing on some of the marsh grass. This could be from stress of my approach, or there is some belief that ice seals may chew on the pack ice to relieve dehydration and when they are off the pack ice they may chew on rocks and grass mistaking it for ice.

As I got even closer to look for any other wounds or possible concerning issues that I would need to be aware of during capture, the seal lifted its head and barked and growled at me. Although these are good signs of alertness, harp seals are known to play dead so they are not always this animated during a capture.

Below you can see video of the capture shot by Emily Bauernfeind as she rode along with the rescue team.

The seal is currently at Mystic Aquarium undergoing rehabilitation.


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