Back in July, a harbor seal named Stinger arrived at our hospital for care. Arriving during the busiest time of year at MARC, Stinger has managed to maintain a fairly low profile over the last few months. As we near the release of this charismatic critter, we wanted to share his story, and the road to release.
Who is Stinger?
Stinger (aka MARC 11-079 Pv) was collected on 7/24/2011 about 2 miles from shore by a well-intending boater out at sea (near Newburyport, Massachusetts) when it was apparent he was in distress*. Stinger was reported to the New England Aquarium’s Rescue and Rehabilitation department and was transported to MARC by the response team at the Whale Center of New England.
Why did Stinger come to rehab?
Stinger arrived late in the day – weighing in at just 14.1 kgs (31 lbs). The primary issue was a large open wound on his neck (see above photo). Though no netting or fishing line was present at the time of stranding, our best guess at the cause of the wound (based on size, shape, depth into body tissue and location on the neck) is an entanglement in fishing line.
Stinger was exhausted when he arrived at MARC. Aside from the large wound on his neck, his body and flippers were also covered with many smaller wounds and abscesses. Stinger was running a fever of 102.3 F. (A normal harbor seal body temperature is ~100 F). Battled hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) for several days.
A little about Stinger’s ears:
After a few weeks in rehabilitation, we noticed that Stinger has discharge from his left ear, indicative of an ear infection. Ear infections in seals can cause major pain and difficulty with diving (just like with scuba divers) when in the wild hunting for fish. In order to be released from MARC, we treat the ear infections and make sure that the ear drum (tympanic membrane) is not ruptured. For Stinger, there have been several months of antibiotics, ear flushes, radiographs to check out his ears. The ear is now healed.
Stinger’s involvement in science:
Stinger stepped up to the plate to test out a prototype dive depth recorder. This non-invasive device is a part of grad student Amber Thomas’ research project. She’ll be measuring diving behavior in developing harbor seal pups at MARC this summer. She needed to test her dive recorders, and Stinger was the perfect volunteer. He wore the tag for a few days last week in his pool. You can learn more about Amber’s Project here.
Wearing the tag also gave Stinger the change to get used to wearing a small device on his back. As part of our ear infection treatments and study at MARC, seals that are deemed healthy (following treatment of ear infections) will be fitted with a Time-Depth-Recorded (TDR Satellite Tag) for release. Stinger will receive his tag this week prior to release. Once he’s in the ocean, we’ll be able to monitor his diving behavior for several months to see if he’s able to dive normally now that his ears are clear.
Will Stinger be released?
Yes! Stinger’s neck has healed nicely and his ears are looking great. He’s at a healthy weight now. Okay, okay, maybe he’s had a few too many fish…. he’s a tad plump these days. But, we see no reason to keep him here at MARC. Once release is approved… we’re sending him out to sea. Stay tuned for details….
* Please remember to always report injured/distressed marine mammals to the local agencies. In Maine, please call 1-800-532-9551 to report marine mammals.