ASSATEAGUE — A grey seal pup rescued from the beach in neighboring Delaware in February was released back into the wild from the beach at Assateague on Wednesday.
On Feb. 12, a grey seal pup now known affectionately was Eloise, in keeping with the National Aquarium’s theme this year of naming rescued marine mammals after famous storybook characters, was recovered from the beach in nearby Cape Henlopen. On Wednesday, after months of rehabilitation, Eloise returned to the sea from the beach at Assateague State Park on a picture-perfect spring afternoon.
Eloise was initially triaged at the Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation Institute (MERR) and was transported to the National Aquarium’s Animal Care and Rescue Center on Feb. 14 for rehabilitation. Animal Care and Rescue Center staff determined Eloise was malnourished with a few lacerations on her neck.
Eloise was initially hydrated and nourished through an oral feeding tube, but quickly progressed to the next stage of her rehabilitation. Due to the seal’s young age, she was considered a maternally-dependent pup, meaning if she was still in her natural habitat, she would be relying on her mother for milk.
For that reason, Eloise’s rehabilitation focused on teaching her how to eat fish, a skill she would normally learn from her mother. Despite the challenges of being a maternally-dependent pup, Eloise is currently exceeding far exceeded expectations by eating fish on her own. She also had full-time pool access for swimming and other enrichment activities as Animal Health and Rescue teams prepared her for an eventual release back into the sea.
“Eloise surpassed all of her rehabilitation milestones, making her eligible for release into the ocean, according to our partners at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,” said National Aquarium Animal Rescue Director Jennifer Dittmar. “The ultimate goal for al of our rescue patients is release back into their natural habitats, so it’s always a great day for our team when we can make that happen.”
The National Aquarium continues to care for harp seal Stuart Little, who was rescued from the beach in Ocean City in March. Stuart Little now weighs 55 pounds and loves to roll around in ice the staff offers on the pool deck. The Animal Health and Rescue teams expect Stuart Little will be ready for release in the next month.