Young Seal Released After Rehabilitation

Young Seal Released After Rehabilitation
After about four months of rehabilitation, a juvenile grey seal is pictured being released this week. Photo by Theresa Keil/National Aquarium

ASSATEAGUE — A juvenile grey seal rescued from the beach in Delaware in April was released on Wednesday from Assateague State Park after completing a lengthy rehabilitation at the National Aquarium.

Back on April 19, a juvenile grey seal, now known affectionately as Tom Sawyer, in keeping with the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center’s theme this year of naming rescued marine animals after beloved children’s book characters, was rescued with multiple illnesses and injuries. On Wednesday, after completing a lengthy rehabilitation process at the National Aquarium, Tom Sawyer was let out of its crate back into the ocean.

Upon arrival at the National Aquarium’s Animal Care and Rescue Center, it was determined Tom Sawyer was suffering from a lungworm infection, an eye ulcer and injuries to his flipper and mouth. The Animal Care and Rescue Center stabilized the juvenile grey seal for his lungworm infection.

Once the rescue teams were able to clear the infection and Tom Sawyer’s eye and flipper were fully healed, they could turn their attention to the seal’s tooth and jaw injuries. Through radiographs and by working with a veterinary dental specialist, the team was able to assess the extent of injuries.

It was determined he had a fracture where the right and left sides of his lower jaw connect at the chin. In addition, the team ruled out any major tooth injuries and found the infections had cleared. The juvenile seal was sedated and received a temporary acrylic bridge to stabilize his lower jaw.

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With his mouth and jaw injuries stabilized, Tom Sawyer still had an important test to pass before he could be released back into the wild. The Animal Health and Rescue team challenged the juvenile seal to a live prey test.

During much of Tom Sawyer’s rehabilitation, he was not fed live fish, but that did not stop him from devouring as many as eight pounds of fish a day to reach his release weight of 69 pounds. When challenged with a live prey test, the juvenile seal passed and was ready to be released into the wild.

“Tom Sawyer was our third seal patient of the 2021 season and certainly had his challenges,” said National Aquarium Director of Animal Rescue Jennifer Dittmar this week. “Much of Tom’s rehabilitation required patience, as the process to treat lungworm infections can take multiple courses of medication. As we say farewell to Tom, my team and I are currently preparing for the next rescue season’s cast of characters.”

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.