FACT SHEET #1
WhaleNet /Seal Data
Hooded Seals

Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release:

"Stephanie"

HOODED SEAL
August, 1996


Stranding Date: The female hooded seal was found stranded on a sandy beach on February 20, 1996.
Location of Stranding: Nahant Beach, Nahant, MA
Current Length: Seven feet, six inches
Current Weight: Slightly over 500 pounds
Age: 7 - 10 years


Condition upon Arrival:

The hooded seal was in serious condition. She was very underweight (more than 150 pounds below normal) and dehydrated. She was a prime candidate for rescue: healthy enough to be dangerous to beachgoers, but too weak to go back to the sea or travel home to arctic waters.

Treatment:

Upon arrival, the seal underwent a complete physical examination. She was treated for dehydration and a lungworm infection, and fed up to 15 lbs of capelin, herring and squid each day. She gained 150 pounds, and is now close to her normal weight.

Although the seal was deemed ready for release by the end of May, Aquarium experts decided to delay, fearing that she would suffer a setback during her June molting period. Molting -- an annual occurrence in which seals lose and regrow all of their hair -- is considered one of the most stressful physiological events seals undergo.

Staff fears turned out to be well-founded. In the middle of the animal's molting period, a parasitic lung infection grew worse and the seal suffered a serious relapse. The infection was treated with anti-inflammatory agents, antibiotics and a medication to kill the lungworm parasites. The medication was subsequently reduced and there has been no indication of a serious respiratory problem since.

Location of Release:

The seal will be released in Nahant, near where she was found.

Telemetry Research:

Before the seal is released, a satellite telemetry device will be attached with glue to the hair on her head. The device is harmless and will fall off before or during the next molting season. In the meantime, it will allow Aquarium researchers to monitor the seal's well-being, track her location and study behaviors such as dive depth and length of submersion.

Researchers hope this seal will give them a glimpse of previously uncharted territory. Hooded seals are one of the least understood pinnipeds, due to the short span of time they spend on shore. In general, hooded seals can be tagged only during breeding, which takes place in late March/early April in Canada. Since the tags fall off during the annual molt three months later, they can only record about 100 days of the hooded seals' wide-ranging travels. Tagging this seal after molting should give researchers a chance to study hooded seal behavior and location during the other two-thirds of the year.

The public can follow the seal's travels through the Internet on WhaleNet's Satellite Tagging Observation Program (http://whale.wheelock.edu), where information from the seal's tracking device will be posted daily. WhaleNet is a combined project of the biology departments of Wheelock and Simmons colleges.

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