OCEAN CITY – On a crystal clear morning with a big crowd on hand for the send-off, a rehabilitated seal found injured on the beach in Ocean City in early January was released back on the strand on Monday and quickly returned to the sea..
The now-healthy harbor seal, known affectionately to Baltimore Aquarium volunteers as “Secca,” waddled out of her container on Monday morning, quickly made her way through the hundred or so well wishers and media assembled and made a bee-line for the ocean. Secca, whose name means “dry” in Italian, wasted no time returning to the sea and quickly swam off, but not before poking her head out of the water 50 yards or so offshore to look back at the throng that had gathered to send her off.
Secca was found on the beach in early January and admitted to the National Aquarium’s rehabilitation program due to emaciation, dehydration and an injury to a front flipper. During her time under the watchful eye of aquarium rehabilitation program volunteers, Secca gained nearly 30 pounds and successfully recovered from her injuries to the point she could safely be returned to the wild.
Secca was delivered to the beach at 40th Street around 9:30 a.m. on Monday morning in an old ambulance converted for use by the National Aquarium in Baltimore. The ambulance arrived under Maryland State Police escort, and one of the plainclothes MSP officers was overheard talking about the long, slow journey to Ocean City from Baltimore.
From the ambulance, the blue crate containing Secca was transferred to an Ocean City Emergency Services pick-up truck and taken close to the shoreline. The crowd that had gathered for the release was kept back by cones and police tape, giving Secca a clear path to the ocean, and when the crate was opened by aquarium volunteers with the help of Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, the seal walked straight out of the crate and headed toward the water.
It was uncertain if Secca would head straight to the ocean. During her rehabilitation, she showed a penchant for resting dry on the decks at the aquarium rather than in the water, which is why staffers named her Secca to begin with.
Before Secca was released on Monday, she was fitted with a satellite tag that will allow rescue program volunteers and the general public to track her progress. The seal’s movements can be tracked on the rescue program’s website at www.aqua.org.
As of yesterday, Secca had traveled over 27 miles since her release on Monday morning although she didn’t stray to far from the coast. A track of her progress on the rescue program website showed Secca heading southeast out into the Atlantic for 10 miles or so before doubling back in almost the opposite direction toward the Ocean City beach.
While Secca was being released on 40th Street on Monday morning, another seal was discovered on the beach on 59th Street. The second seal appeared healthy and was likely just sunning itself or taking a breather from the ocean. It is not unusual for seals to come ashore during the winter months in Ocean City and not all of them are injured or sick.