Posted on 06/27/2007

Photo taken on May 25, 2001

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Harbor/Common Seals Harbor/Common Seals


harbor seal pup
harbor seal

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LA and Gale 1

LA and Gale 1
Pup rescued in May 2001: I study Harbor Seals (since 1980, yikes). One day during pupping season this little one hauled out near me on my observation rock, a long way from where the rest of the seals were settled. I could tell from experience that it was not in good shape and desperate (its eyes sunken from dehydration and its body very skinny). I am part of a marine mammal rescue team and so have a permit to pick up abandoned pups.

When I walked over, he panicked and struggled into the water so I backed off. It has always been a dilemma for me whether to rescue a pup or not.... should I take it away from its birthplace, put it in a car, stress it out with all the human interaction it must then go through when it might not survive anyway?

I was determined to leave it alone, but soon it dragged itself back on the ledge and my heart went out to it. A voice in my head said "com'on you've been studying seals for 20 years ... act like one." Lying down on the ground, I hunched my way over and it immediately came to me, pressing it's nose against mine... that is what mothers and pups do to bond...I was mom! (DO NOT TRY THIS: pups are carriers of all sorts of weird diseases, I don't think I will ever do this again)

It was a long walk, carrying him up from the shore to our house. When he got fidgety and nervous I would touch noses, we would poooof at each other and he would settle down again immediately. It was wonderful to feel his weight in my arms and watch his face while he stared wide eyed at the trees moving past.

Once I got him to the house a veterinarian friend came to rehydrate him, something he needed desperately, before the long drive to Marine Animal Lifeline in Portland, where he joined other pups that were being rehabilitated in hopes of release in the late summer.

It was hard to leave him at the center... he and I had connected in a way I didn't with another pup I rescued later (who had shown very little interest in me). This little one would seek nose to nose contact whenever he needed reassurance and would immediately calm down (again not a wise thing to do either for him or for me... it was a likely I could give him a disease as vise-versa).

When I left him off at the rehab center it was with a heavy heart. He was doing well when I checked in on him over the first week. Two weeks later he died. The center had suddenly been flooded by pups in trouble, La had no resistance to the new diseases because he had probably never nursed and hadn't boost to his immune system from the colostrum in his mother's milk.

It still hurts ... in someways I felt I deserted him. But it is illegal for me to rehab pups, I can only rescue them.

Credited to the people at Marine Animal Hotline in Maine. They have a wonderful newsletter of their current seal rescues. They could always use contributions.

knuddelbacke has particularly liked this photo

Thank you!!
9 years ago.
Yeimaya, so sad story, my eyes wet.
You are doing the best of you, that´s the thing and the little pup never was deserted in any sense.
8 years ago.