OCEAN CITY — In a rare double-header, two rehabilitated grey seals rescued earlier this winter and spring were successfully released from the beach in Ocean City on Thursday morning.
National Aquarium Animal Rescue and Health officials on Thursday morning released George Washington Carver and Edwin Hubble from the beach at 40th Street with a big crowd on hand to watch the spectacle. Each rescue season, the National Aquarium chooses a theme to name the various seals and other marine animals to come through its rehabilitation facilities and for this season the theme chosen is influential scientists.
Already this spring, rehabbed seals Marie Tharp and Sally Ride have been released from the beach in Ocean City. On Thursday, after weeks of rehabilitation, it was time for George Washington Carver and Edwin Hubble to return to the sea.
George Washington Carver, named for the famed agricultural scientist and inventor who discovered over 100 ways to use the peanut among other things, was rescued from the beach in Ocean City in April and the grey seal was underweight and lethargic. In the weeks since, George Washington Carver received anti-parasitic medications and responded well to treatment. As a result, his appetite and energy levels greatly increased to the point he was ready to be released back into the wild from the beach in Ocean City on Thursday.
Edwin Hubble took quite a journey on his way to the release from the beach at Ocean City on Thursday. The grey seal first popped up on the radar in late February when he stranded in Virginia Beach. He was treated and tagged at that time and was released back into the Atlantic in early March. He then turned up in Myrtle Beach, for a short time and then again in Hilton Head a few days later.
Marine animal rescue experts hoped Edwin Hubble would turn north on his own to continue his normal migration pattern, but was soon spotted again in St. Augustine, Fla. and it was clear he needed intervention. The Georgia Aquarium’s Dolphin Conservation Field Station worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and NOAA to rescue the seal from the beach.
SeaWorld Orlando cared for Edwin Hubble overnight before he was transported to the North Carolina State University of Veterinary Medicine to rest and receive fluids. The seal finally ended up at the National Aquarium Animal Rescue Center in Baltimore in late March to begin long-term rehabilitation. The seal was underweight, but showed no signs of serious injury or illness.
Each winter, migrating seals of various species and sizes pass through the mid-Atlantic region as part of their normal migratory patterns and more than a few haul out on the beaches in and around Ocean City and Assateague. Many are simply resting or sunning themselves along their journey, while others are ill or injured.
In either case, the seals present an adorable opportunity for residents and visitors to enjoy them from afar, but interaction with humans and even their pets can often have dangerous consequences. To that end, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program and the National Aquarium Marine Rescue Program partner each year on an outreach program for responsible seal viewing and sighting reporting.
Anyone who encounters a seal on the beach is urged to call MARP’s direct line at 410-576-3880 so a trained observer can evaluate the condition of the animal to determine if it is just doing its normal activity or if it is in distress. Seal sightings can also be registered on the MCBP website at www.mdcoastalbays.org.