A small grey seal pup found confused and lethargic on a cold street in the middle of a storm is on her way back to better health – and in the not-too-distant future, the Atlantic Ocean.
The seal had an indisputably rough day – even for a mammal with flippers. The Jan. 12 nor’easter was so powerful that technicians from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine believe that the seal had likely breached the flooded bulkhead at Lake Louise in Point Pleasant Beach during the storm, and made her way to the middle of the road. She was found at about 10 p.m. by a jogger during a break in the storm, who called the police. Two officers from the Point Pleasant Beach police department stood by and made sure the pup was safe until a team from the stranding center made it to the scene during the height of the storm at 1:30 a.m.
She weighed 27.4 pounds at intake, the MMSC said, and was still partially covered by her white birthing coat (lanugo), meaning she was likely just four weeks old at the time. At the center’s intensive care unit, she was given supportive care via tube feeding – a mixture of formula and electrolyte solution for hydration.
The unusual circumstances of the seal’s stranding generated a great deal of interest in her progress, the center said, with officials sending out an update on Thursday.
“The pup is starting to show signs of improvement in the hospital,” a center representative said. “She is a little more active and alert than when she was first admitted, and is able to enjoy more supervised swim time throughout the day.”
The young seal is still not eating on her own, but has started “mouthing and tearing apart fish in the water, which is a normal behavior as pups begin learning to forage on their own,” the update said. The center’s technicians continue to assist-feed her 2.5-pounds of fish daily, however she no longer requires the feeding tube or supplemental electrolytes.
“We want to thank all of our followers who have been rooting for this little one and cheering her on during her recovery,” the center said. “Lots of people have been asking if we know when she will be ready to be returned back to the wild, and the short answer is, ‘right now we don’t know when that will be.'”
The MMSC said each seal is unique, and each progresses through a number of rehabilitation steps at a different pace.
“Some seals may only be here for a month, others may take much longer before they are healthy enough to return to the wild,” the update said. “Only time will tell.”