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The Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release of "McHenry"


In March, 1998, an infant male gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) stranded at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. The abandoned six week old seal weighed 43 pounds (19.5 kg) and appeared exhausted and emaciated. He had obviously experienced a long journey. This was only the second reported "live stranding" of a gray seal in Virginia in recent times. The seal was rescued and transported the National Aquarium in Baltimore, (Maryland), Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP). Diagnostic testing indicated that the animal was severely underweight, had numerous parasites and suffered from an infection.

After 9 months of rehabilitation which included a diet of "fish milkshakes", antibiotics and other medications the rehabilitated seal grew to a weight of 125 lbs. (57 kgs). At the time of release, he was occasionally treated to a diet of "live fish" to ensure that his foraging skills were still sharp.

It was determined to release the seal off the southeast side of Cape Cod as this region includes the southern most breeding colony for gray seals in the Western North Atlantic. At less than one year of age, he will encounter numerous other gray seals in this region of Monomoy Island and Nantucket Island.

"McHenry" was released on Monday, November 24, 1998 at 3:00 p.m. (1500 GMT) from Hardings Beach, Chatham, Massachusetts (Cape Cod). "McHenry" got his name after Fort McHenry which is located just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. This 18th century fort was the birthplace of the American National anthem.

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