FACT SHEET #1
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Rescue, Rehabilitation and Release:
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
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
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
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