Hooded seal (Cystophora cristata)
NAIB0112 Cc, "Assateague", released on November 9th, 2001
A young hooded seal, Cystophora cristata, was rescued from Assateague Island National Park and brought to the National Aquarium in Baltimore's Marine Animal Rescue Program's facility on July 31, 2001. Upon arrival the seal, "Assateague", had a wound on its right rear flipper, was severely dehydrated, and lethargic. There were reports of the pup eating sand while stranded on the beach, this may be because hooded seals normally live on coastal ice flows and eat ice as a source of fresh water. The first few weeks of this animal's rehabilitation involved hydrating the seal through IV and tube fed fluids, administering antibiotics, and treating its wounded flipper. Close observation records were kept, keeping track of respiration rates as well as overall condition of the animal. At that point the seal was too weak to be given access to a pool so volunteers also sprayed the animal with salt water to keep its eyes in good condition. As the seal's health gradually improved the seal was given access to a pool and the transition from tube feeding to toss feeding fish was made.
Over the next several months the animal gained considerable weight, he currently weighs approximately 100 lbs, and medical examinations confirmed a great improvement in health. In order to be sure the animal was a good candidate for release, close behavioral observations were taken. Throughout any animal's rehabilitation process, all involved must follow guidelines to keep the animals as "wild" as possible so as not to diminish their chances at a successful release. In the case of this hooded seal, it was showing all the right signs and demonstrated good hunting abilities when offered live fish. At this point our veterinarians gave their approval for release and MARP team managers communicated with the National Marine Fisheries Service and proceeded with plans to release the seal. The National Marine Fisheries Service is the government agency that implements the Marine Mammal Protection Act and is the authorizing agency for releasing animals back to the wild under the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program. Plans have been made to transport the seal to Tonqogue Beach on Long Island, an appropriate release site for this time of year. A satellite tag will be adhered to the fur of the animal and will provide invaluable information of the seal's whereabouts after release. This information is shared with the scientific community and is used to help analyze trends on ocean health and animal activity. The tag is only attached to the seal's coat and will fall off during the annual molt of the animal, seals loose their coats and grow new ones much like your pets at home shed. While it is attached the small size and weight of the tag will not impede any of the seal's natural behaviors. To follow the seal's progress, log onto whalenet, at whale.wheelock.edu/, which tracks the satellite data. The MARP team generally does not name the animals to help "keep them wild" and to reduce the attachment formed with stranded animals, however in this case we will give this seal a name in order to help organize the satellite data. The name is "Assateague" The MARP team looks forward to watching this pup slowly disappear from sight as it returns to its proper place in the sea.
Stranding Network in action: Two stranding teams, The National Aquarium in Baltimore and the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation of Long Island, came together to release a young hooded seal pup.
MARP and Riverhead teams carried the seal to the surf as National Geographic News captures the story.
Satellite tag positioned on the lower neck of the seal should transmit for 4 to 8 weeks.
The Hooded Seal's satellite tag was glued (using apoxy) to the seal's fur. The tag will fall off during its molt, early next year.