Rehabbed Seal Pup Is Successfully Released

November 17, 2006

The pup, found in a DUII arrest, is expected to survive on her own

An injured harbor seal pup that was confiscated by State Police in Florence and brought to the Oregon Coast Aquarium has healed and was released under high clouds south of Seal Rock today. The pup was released by Aquarium staff at 1:30 as husbandry staff and members of the media looked on. The injured pup had multiple puncture wounds and infections when she was discovered in a vehicle during a DUII arrest September 17. Oregon State Police arrested a 24 year-old male for driving under the influence of intoxicants and possession of protected wildlife. When the man was arrested in Florence he had the seal pup and a pit bull in his vehicle.

Aquarium Curator of Mammals Judy Tuttle said the pup is ready for release as evidenced by all the behaviors that indicate she is ready to survive on her own. Rehabilitation of the pup was achieved with as little interaction with people as possible in an effort to prevent imprinting. The objective is to help the animal recover so she doesn’t associate food with people. The pup has been eating 8 pounds of fish every day and her white blood cell count is back to normal which means her infection is gone. She went from a weight of 18 pounds the day she was brought in to her current weight of 61 pounds as of today.

Tuttle said the decision to release the pup was made by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Aquarium’s husbandry and veterinary staffs. The criteria for release include: the pup must weigh at least 50 pounds, she must be able to catch live fish on her own and she must have been off all medications for at least two weeks. The pup met all of those conditions and seemed eager to get out of her carrier as staff stood by. “She tried to bite me,” said Jim Burke, Aquarium Director of Husbandry, “and that’s a good thing!” The pup swam out to sea as other seals swam around and watched.

The cost of caring for the pup will be covered in part by grants from the Kinsman Foundation and the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation and the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Aquarium mammalogists hope the incident will serve as a reminder that it’s not only a bad idea to pick up a stranded seal pup, but it is illegal because they are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Although most people are well intentioned, touching or moving a seal pup can doom its chances for survival. The Aquarium rehabilitates animals that are injured by human interference, not by natural processes. Mammalogists say it’s important not to interfere with nature because often a mother will leave her pup on the beach and come back for it later, but if the seal is moved it can become permanently separated from its mother. Burke said if a marine mammal is obviously injured, people should leave it alone and call the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network at (541) 867-0446 or Oregon State Police at (541) 265-5353.