Rescued Seal Released After Successful Rehab

Rescued Seal Released After Successful Rehab
After six weeks of rehabilitation, this harp seal is pictured getting a taste of freedom last Friday. Photo by Theresa Keil of the National Aquarium

ASSATEAGUE — For the second time this month, a seal rescued from local beaches this winter and rehabbed at the National Aquarium in Baltimore was released back into the wild from Assateague State Park.

On March 2, a harp seal, now known affectionately as Stuart Little, in keeping with the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center’s theme this year of naming rescued marine animals after beloved children’s books, was rescued from the beach in Ocean City. Last Friday, after weeks of rehabilitation at the National Aquarium, Stuart Little was released back into the ocean from the beach at Assateague State Park.

Upon arrival at the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center, Stuart Little was treated with fluids and later for several parasitic infections, which are common in harp seals. During his time at rehab, Stuart Little became not so little, unlike his children’s book namesake.

While he came to the aquarium malnourished, he tipped the scales at 70 pounds and measured 48 inches in length before he was released at Assateague last Friday. He became a voracious eater during rehab, often consuming his entire meal under water before coming up for a breath of air. Stuart Little also showed a passion for rolling around on ice during his stint at rehab at the aquarium.

“Harp seals are considered ice seals, which means they typically spend most of their time on ice floes or in areas with plenty of ice covering,” said National Aquarium Animal Rescue Director Jennifer Dittmar. “Therefore, it’s no surprise Stuart’s favorite enrichment activity was eating and rolling around in ice.”

With his rehab completed, Stuart Little was deemed ready to be released back into the sea. When aquarium staffers opened his crate, Stuart Little made his way across the beach and entered the ocean before swimming away. As E.B. White, who wrote the book Stuart Little put it best, “but the sky was bright, and somehow he felt he was headed in the right direction.”

The National Aquarium recently admitted its third seal patient of the season, a juvenile grey seal, now named Tom Sawyer, which was rescued from the beach in neighboring Delaware in cooperation with the Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation (MERR). Tom Sawyer is currently in critical condition and is being treated for several ailments including bite wounds and a parasitic respiratory infection by the Animal Health and Rescue Team.

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.