Injured Seal Pup Brought To Aquarium

September 28, 2006

The injured pup was found in an arrest near Florence

An injured harbor seal pup was confiscated in Florence by Oregon State Police and brought to the Oregon Coast Aquarium for urgent care on Sunday evening, September 17. The injured pup had multiple puncture wounds and infections when she was discovered in a vehicle during a DUII arrest. Oregon State Police arrested a 25 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. The man told police he was driving around looking for a veterinarian. It is believed the seal pup came from Seal Rock.

Aquarium Veterinarian Dr. Steven Brown said when he first examined her she was extremely lethargic with multiple puncture wounds, which appeared to be bites. She also had elevated white blood cell count and hair loss which is evidence of trauma. “The good news was, there was no evidence of a fracture,” said Brown, who was called in to assess her condition and prescribe treatment. Brown prescribed antibiotics for the pup and she began to show signs of improvement after 24 hours. Brown said he has seen situations like this before and the objective is to help the animal recover with as little human interaction as possible. “Our goal is to release the animal without imprinting so she will socialize with her own species and survive on her own.” Brown said the key to success in the pup’s rehabilitation lies with the Aquarium staff. “I can diagnose and prescribe treatment, but it is the dedicated staff at the Aquarium that does all the work—they really care.”

Aquarium Mammalogist Ken Lytwyn who is among Aquarium staff caring for the pup said she would have died in a short time if she hadn’t received immediate care. “Her wounds were infected and she was very weak,” said Lytwyn, “but she’s feisty and wants to live.” Lytwyn said the pup continues to improve with the care she is receiving. She has been eating, gaining weight and her blood work is improving, but the incident is troubling to Aquarium staff.

Aquarium Director of Husbandry Jim Burke hopes this incident will serve as a deterrent. “We want to let people know that not only is it a bad idea to pick up a stranded seal pup, but it’s illegal and carries a stiff penalty because they are protected under the marine mammal protection act.” Most people are well intentioned, but it is still not in the best interest of the animal to pick it up or even go near it.” Burke said the Aquarium rehabilitates animals that are injured by human interference, not by natural processes. “It’s important not to interfere with nature. 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.

Burke said if the pup fully recovers the decision to release it will be made by the National Marine Fisheries Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Dr. Brown and Aquarium staff. The cost of caring for the pup will be covered by grants from the Kinsman Foundation and the Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation and the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network.