Two-month-old seal pup found stranded on beach at Ft. Getty
Although one onlooker said the seal appeared alive but weak, Erin Merz of Mystic Aquarium said that the seal was fine and a first responder was already on site by Wednesday afternoon. By nightfall on Wednesday, the seal pup was released back into the water at Ft. Getty.
According to Walter Graf, a stranding assistant for Mystic’s Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Program, the mother cut the pup free from nursing about a month ago. “At this stage in his life, he’s figuring out how to fend for himself,” Graf said.
Graf said the seal looked a little thin and dehydrated, which go hand in hand. “Seals don’t drink water,” Graf said, “they get all their hydration from metabolizing fat in the fish they eat.”
Officials at Mystic were also worried when curious viewers began to bother the seal. “People were starting to approach the seal, and it can get very disturbed,” said Erin Merz, manager of media and public relations at the aquarium. “[The seal] can get very stressed if the public comes too close to it.”
“We sent a first-responder volunteer to Jamestown to keep an eye on the seal,” Graf said. “We heard that it was being harassed by the public. We just like to monitor the safety of the seal from the public and dogs.”
The state Department of Environmental Management sent environment police to the scene to assist the Mystic volunteers. According to Graf, the major problem with strandings is keeping the public at bay: “We really don’t want the public handling these animals.”
The Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Program responds to rescue calls from an area that spans nearly 1,000 miles of coastline along the shores of Connecticut, Rhode Island and Fishers Island, N.Y. According to Graf, Newport County is the third busiest county for strandings, following Rhode Island’s Washington County and New London County in Connecticut. Graf said Washington County – more commonly known as South County, which includes most state beaches – accounts for nearly 50 percent of the reported strandings. Along with Newport County, Rhode Island accounts for a large chunk of the rescue calls.
Graf said that video and photos were taken so that the aquarium could keep records of the seal. “We like to look at the spot patterns so if the same seal shows up again in Middletown or in Newport, we know there might be something more going on,” he said.
If a marine mammal or sea turtle is seen beached, Graf recommends leaving it alone and calling the Mystic Aquarium’s strandings hotline at 560-572- 5922. “We also need volunteers, just like the ones we sent to Jamestown to assist and monitor the seal,” he said.
The aquarium will hold a firstresponder training course at Salve Regina on Wednesday, April 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. There will also be other seminars held at Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Conn. For more information on the training courses, call 860-572-5955 ext. 209 or e-mail volunteer@mystic aquarium.org.
“The important thing is,” Graf said, “is that the seal is as healthy as can be.”