Juvenile Grey Seal Released After Putting On 30 Pounds

Juvenile Grey Seal Released After Putting On 30 Pounds
Members of the animal rescue team at the National Aquarium released a juvenile seal Wednesday from Assateague State Park. Photos courtesy of the National Aquarium

ASSATEAGUE — A juvenile grey seal rescued from the beach in Assateague State Park in late February was quietly released from the same area on Wednesday after spending two months rehabilitating at the National Aquarium.

The grey seal, known now affectionately as Huckleberry Finn was released by a core team of National Aquarium Animal Rescue staff from Assateague Island State Park on Wednesday morning. Huckleberry Finn was rescued the stranded juvenile grey seal was rescued from the same area back on Feb. 27.

With little of the fanfare typically associated with a rehabbed seal release in the area, Huckleberry Finn reluctantly crept out of his transport crate and made a mad dash across the sand to the ocean and was last seen bobbing in the waves on a sun-splashed late April morning. Each rescue season, the National Aquarium chooses a theme to name the seals and various marine creatures that come through its rehabilitation facilities.

This year’s them is beloved children’s book characters, which is how the juvenile grey seal released from Assateague on Wednesday came to be known as Huckleberry Finn. Other seals that have been rescued and rehabbed from area beaches this winter include Amelia Bedelia, who was released in March, and Pippi Longstocking, who remains under the care at the aquarium.

When Huckleberry Finn was rescued and transported to the National Aquarium in February, the Animal Health and Rescue teams determined he was extremely dehydrated, underweight and had external signs of wounds and infection. During the seal’s two months of rehabilitation, he gained more than 30 pounds.

Huckleberry Finn grew stronger each day and improved his swimming skills to the point he was ready to be safely returned to his ocean habitat. Huckleberry Finn arrived at the aquarium around the same time as Pippi Longstocking and the two seals shared rehab areas and grew to interact like siblings. Animal Health and Rescue staff continue to provide care for Pippi Longstocking and inch her closer to the time she can safely return to her ocean home.

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.

About The Author: Shawn Soper

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Shawn Soper has been with The Dispatch since 2000. He began as a staff writer covering various local government beats and general stories. His current positions include managing editor and sports editor. Growing up in Baltimore before moving to Ocean City full time three decades ago, Soper graduated from Loch Raven High School in 1981 and from Towson University in 1985 with degrees in mass communications with a journalism concentration and history.