Two emergency calls to the Mystic Aquarium animal-rescue hotline from two different Rhode Island beaches had two different outcomes, but in both cases, people who saw a stranded seal pup alone on a beach knew exactly what to do.
The two beachings in the same week gave the aquarium’s rescue team an idea. What if everybody who spends time on the shore of Rhode Island knew exactly what to do if they saw a baby seal alone in the sand?
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Here’s what Mystic Aquarium wants you to know about seal strandings:
• Give the beached pup plenty of space. Stay at least 150 feet away.
• Call Mystic Aquarium’s 24-hour animal rescue hotline at (860) 572-5955, ext. 107, and leave a message with your name, the location and a phone number that you or someone with you can answer when the rescue team member calls back.
• While waiting for the animal rescuer, keep people and pets away from the pup. Get other people to help you. People on the beach should not approach the pup, touch it, feed it or try to help it. Even if the animal appears to be dead, it can transfer diseases to humans and pets.
What will marine rescuers do for a beached seal pup?
The rescuers themselves respect that 150-foot distance. With binoculars, an animal rescue-team member can assess the pup, looking for signs that indicate health, such as a bright look, good body condition, hydration rings around the eyes that indicate a well-hydrated pup, and pink gums.
Similarly, a binocular survey of a pup in poor condition, with a dazed look, visible injuries or that is unable to raise its head will quickly bring the team to the animal to bundle it off to the veterinary hospital in the aquarium.
On Jan. 25, an animal rescue team went to Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly and found what was determined to be a healthy pup. Sarah Callan, animal-rescue program manager, said the team guarded the pup’s 150-foot safety zone, recruiting volunteers to help keep the zone clear, observing through binoculars and taking shifts until the pup decided to go back in the water two days later.
Another hotline emergency took place Feb. 1 at Blue Shutters Town Beach in Charlestown. A gray seal had a broken jaw and puncture wounds to its head. It was in critical condition. Veterinarians at the aquarium provided antibiotics and pain medication while waiting for diagnostic results, but the pup’s injuries were severe and it died.
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“Unfortunately, not every response ends with a happy ending, but our world-class care can provide each animal admitted into our animal rescue clinic with the best chance for survival,” Callan said. conservation and protection of local wildlife.”
A news release from the aquarium said seal-pupping season ranges from December to March. A newborn pup will nurse for a few weeks. When the pup is three or four weeks old, the mother weans her pup and gives it a chance to discover how to survive without her.
“This time period of independence is crucial to the seal’s transition into adulthood,” the news release said.
Maybe the pup is tired of all that swimming, the constant hunting for food. It might leave the water and rest on the beach for a while. In such cases, eventually, the appeal of life in the water brings it back.
To learn more, visit the aquarium’s web page on animal rescue.
On Twitter: @donita22