Marine Mammal Rescue responds to rarely seen Hooded Seal

By Ashley Stokes | Marine Mammal Rescue Manager
 
 

On Tuesday, January 8, we received a call on the SSC Marine Mammal Rescue hotline about a hooded seal, a species that migrates down from the Arctic during the winter. This is a species we rarely see; in fact, it’s only the second one since we started our program in 2014.

 

Hooded seal resting on Gloucester beach

This young hooded seal had been on a private beach in Gloucester, MA for three days in the exact same spot. While it’s not entirely uncommon for hooded and harp seals to stay out of the water for up to 3 days, they typically move around the beach during that time. The most this animal moved was 90 degrees in either direction, likely to try and shift away from the wind. We let the reporting party know that Gloucester is not within our permitted territory, but that we would see if we could send a responder to get a look at the animal (Gloucester is a gap in coverage area that NOAA Fisheries oversees). We obtained permission and sent out a volunteer to start a health assessment until we could get there.

 

At response, the seal’s eyes were crusted, indicating infection

MMR staff members Sarah, Nikki and I responded and met volunteer Terry on the beach. It was immediately clear that the seal needed to be evaluated to determine if it was a rehabilitation candidate or if humane euthanasia was going to be the best option (we had already confirmed that there was a spot open in rehab for her). She was flat but responsive, nutritionally thin, and had eye discharge with severe crusting and sand.

 

IV fluids were administered while waiting for blood test results

The animal was restrained on the beach, swab samples and blood were collected, her eyes were cleaned out, and the blood was ran through our handheld i-stat machine. While waiting for the blood results to come in, we began administering IV fluids to help with her dehydration and to perk her up a little bit. The blood results showed up on the screen while we were administering the fluids and we were surprised to find that her blood values weren’t as bad as what we expected to see. She was very dehydrated and her oxygen saturation was low, but those were both to be expected, as she was congested and was on the beach for three days. We made the decision to transport to rehab and we administered an oral electrolyte solution via tube feed to aid more with her dehydration prior to transport.

 

Heading to rehab, all cleaned up

She successfully made the transport to rehabilitation and we heard yesterday that she was slightly improving, but is loaded with parasites which will be a hurdle to get over. But by last night she was acting more like a hooded seal and was showing more aggression. I just heard a short time ago that she made it through night 2.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that this little girl will prove to be a fighter!