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Seacoast team reports higher number of seal rescues than normal

Union Leader Correspondent

May 15. 2018 9:07PM
Saco, a gray seal rescued in Seabrook in March, was released back into the ocean off Cape Cod, Mass., last weekend. (National Marine Life Center)

Pemi, another gray seal found stranded in Seabrook, was also rehabilitated and released last weekend. (National Marine Life Center)

RYE — The Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue has responded to more seal rescues than usual for this time of year.

According to Ashley Stokes, the team’s coordinator, a young gray seal discovered on the side of Route 286 in March and another one found stranded nearby weren’t the only ones that needed rehabilitation in recent months.

So far this year, Stokes said, the team has responded to 26 marine mammal cases involving gray, harbor and harp seals, which is higher than normal.

Stokes said four were dead and 22 were alive. Six of the 22 needed to be transported to rehabilitation. One died in rehabilitation, four have now been released, and one is still being cared for, she said.

The two seals found in Seabrook and named Saco and Pemi were sent to the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay, Mass., and were released back into the ocean from Cape Cod last weekend.

“The reality in this field of work is that we cannot save every animal. And to be honest, we aren’t meant to save every one as that would disrupt natural selection. But when we can do our part to ease the pain or suffering of an animal and get it the care it needs, we step up to do that,” Stokes said.

But, she added, when an animal is successfully rehabilitated and released back into the wild it’s exciting and “reminds us why we do the work that we do and that we can make a difference.”

Stokes said Saco and Pemi were both weanling gray seals, meaning they had separated from their mothers and were on their own.

“Gray seals are born December-January and are with mom for only three weeks, but because of the nor’easters back to back, that made it much harder on the seals born this year and Saco and Pemi needed some help,” she said.

Meanwhile, Stokes said harbor seal pupping season is now approaching. Harbor seals are generally born May to June and also remain with their mothers for three weeks.

Stokes stressed that if someone finds a live or dead marine mammal on shore to keep away — even if it appears healthy — and to call the 24-hour hotline at 997-9448 to report it.

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