A Seal Story: From Rescue to Release

It's not too often the Rescue Team gets to share the result of a seal brought to rehabilitation, but this is a great story I'm glad to have been a part of and would love to share how we were able to work with the team from the University of New England Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center (UNE MARC) for a positive outcome.

Back on April 25th, the Rescue team received a report of a seal in Duxbury, MA close to dark.  We don't normally respond in the dark, but it was still light enough that a field volunteer was able to take a look and make sure people were not still approaching the animal.  The animal ended up being a grey seal, and here is her story. 

The morning after the initial report, we heard that the seal was still on the beach.   Seals are semi-aquatic so it is not unusual for them to be resting on the beach and they can be out of the water for several days at a time.  Since the seal was getting quite a bit of attention the night before, I decided to take a ride down there with a volunteer to take a look and do some education. 

The beach was luckily pretty quiet when we arrived and the seal was in a well hidden spot.  I bet you can't even see her in this photo. 

We did a close approach (normally it is best to stay at least 150 feet away from a seal) to assess, and the animal was very thin and lethargic.  The above picture shows a good posture for the animal, but I ended up closer than I would hope for a grey seal to respond like that and the behavior wasn't quite what I would expect.  After some debate, I checked with UNE MARC and they were willing to take her for rehabilitation so I decided she was a good candidate and drove her up to Biddeford, Maine. 

After 3 months of rehabilitation at UNE, the grey seal, named 'Trenette' by UNE staff, was ready for release.  I was very excited to be invited to the special day, which included seal releases aboard a whale watch boat.  Normally, seals are released from the beach, but UNE decided to try something different and release these animals into the open water away from crowded beaches.

And look at her now!  At 71 pounds (over doubled in size!), 'Trenette' was ready for release. She was outfitted with a satellite tag so that UNE can track her journey after release.  You may remember some past turtles from NEAQ receiving satellite tags.  The application is similar where an epoxy (basically a heavy duty glue) is used to attach the tag to the fur.  It is not a permanent fixture and will come off eventually.  You can track 'Trenette' on WhaleNet (her track is not posted yet so make sure to check back).

Taylor, the NEAQ volunteer who assisted in 'Trenette's' rescue back in April, and I were given the honor of allowing 'Trenette' to leave her kennel. 

'Trenette' gave us one last look.

And she jumps!

'Trenette' pops her head out of the water to give us one last goodbye.  We wish her the best!

A second grey seal was also released that day.  'Alfredo' (notice the pasta themed names) stranded in Biddeford, ME, right down the street from UNE on March 23, 2012.  That seems like a convenient rescue!

At 141 pounds, 'Alfredo' belly flops into the ocean.  Note the pink tag on her right rear flipper.  All seals that are released receive a tag with a particular number and UNE contact information on it in case they are sighted again. 

Above, 'Alfredo' makes some laps around the boat.  Perhaps she was sad to go after the amazing care provided by UNE staff and volunteers.

And off she goes!

After the seals were released, we all enjoyed the whale watch.  Above, Asheley (a staff member from UNE) and NEAQ volunteer Taylor scout the open water. 

A minke whale out in the distance (you can read about the minke whale necropsy from back in March in this post).  We saw two minke whales, one fin whale, multiple harbor porpoises, and some other seals on a fantastic whale watch from Indian Whale Watch in Saco, ME.  It was nice to see some healthy animals!

UNE did another release of three harbor seals from the whale watch boat the next day.  There is a great story about one of the animals, Wiggle, which you can see in this news video.  Also, on a side note, if you ever go to Maine, save the date for UNE's Frolic for Flippers on September 22nd.  This 5K is a great fundraising event hosted by UNE MARC. 

It was a fantastic day overall.  A special thanks to the UNE crew for rehabilitating this seal and inviting us along for the release, as well as to Indian Whale Watch for a fantastic adventure. 



  1. Thanks so much Kerry! ~Shannon

  2. Thanks for the post! What was wrong with Trennette and Alfredo?

  3. This is really wonderful. Seeing the seal wounded and any form of animals really breaks my heart. I am happy that there still a lot of people and organizations that spends their time rescuing animals in need of protection. I'll keep visiting for more of your posts.