April 2004 -
"Lewie", a male juvenile harp seal (phoca groelandica), stranded on the beaches of the New Hampshire area of the Delaware Bay in Lewes, DE on January 22, 2004. The seal appeared outwardly to be in good condition, but the rescue team from the MERR Institute who observed him closely for several hours noticed that the seal appeared lethargic, and when approached did not make any attempt to retreat. This prompted them into action, retrieving the seal from the beach and transporting him to the Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. While under care at the Aquarium, the seal was x-rayed to determine if he had any foreign bodies in his stomachÉand he certainly did! The film showed that this little seal had eaten quite a few rocks, and they were lodged in his stomach, filling it entirely. Fortunately, the seal was able to take in fluids during the beginning of his rehabilitation without much problem. The MARP team, along with the veterinary staff at the Aquarium, considered several options for treatment, and decided that surgery was the best option.
On January 29, 2004, the medical team at the Aquarium performed a 1.5 hour gastrotomy on "Lewie", a surgery to remove rocks directly from his stomach. MARP staff watched intently as more than 35 rocks were removed from his stomach! The total weight of the rocks came in at 0.575 kg, or 1.3 lbs. A 24-hour watch was put into place for the day after surgery, with "Lewie" wearing a t-shirt bandage to cover up his sutures. The rehabilitation team had hoped that "Lewie" would keep his bandages on for 24-48 hours, but it seemed that 16 hours was all that he could take, as he rolled out of them!
During the following weeks of rehabilitation, "Lewie" slowly graduated from a liquid diet to eating whole fish (voraciously!). The MARP team transported the healing seal up to the University of New England Marine Animal Rehabilitation Center (MARC) on February 26, 2004. "Lewie" finished his rehabilitation in a communal facility with other seals, and became his feisty self again. At the time of release, he weighed a whopping 128 lbs, and was fitted with a spot-4 satellite tag by the MARP team from the National Aquarium in Baltimore. He was released from Fortunes Point Beach in Biddeford, ME on April 18, 2004. The release was a collaborative effort; including members from MERR, MARP and MARC all there to wish him well as he returned home to the sea.
Map of "Lewie"
More seal data is available in the current WhaleNet Listserv. Sort and go to FIND for "Data Hoods" entries.