By Andrew Rudansky
On April 17, a male gray seal was found lying stranded on the beach in Hampton Bays, the local authorities were called and the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research’s Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Rescue Program rescued the seal, bringing it back to the Riverhead Foundation’s hospital facility for further life saving treatment.
The seal, affectionately named Shadow by the students and teachers at the Sag Harbor Elementary School, was vastly underweight when it was taken in for a medical examination, and after several tests it was revealed that the seal was suffering from a respiratory infection as well as anemia. Shadow received treatment for these ailments and went on to make a full recovery.
Almost two months later this Monday at 2 p.m., after intensive rehabilitation, the seal was released into the Peconic Bay from Havens Beach in Sag Harbor. Close to two hundred people were in attendance to watch the seal being released, including grades kindergarten through four from the Sag Harbor Elementary School.
When the seal first arrived at the hospital facility it refused to eat, but after several days of force-feeding the seal began to eat without the cajoling of Riverhead Foundation workers. By the time Shadow was released he had gained 36 pounds, weighing a much healthier 75 pounds.
The Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program has a lot of experience with this such situation, having handled over 4000 animals since the creation of the program in 1980.
The primary mission of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation is to preserve and protect our marine environment through education, rehabilitation, and research. The group is in the middle of a study where they are tracking the number of sea turtles and marine mammals around the coast of New York State. The Riverhead Foundation says that this study can help aid the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Before the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research released Shadow, they first attached a Satellite Splash tag to his body. The tag will allow researchers and marine biologists at the Riverhead Foundation to collect data about the animal’s behavior and movement patterns in the water. This tag also helps the Riverhead Foundation with their population study.
The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation is holding several upcoming events to benefit further marine research and rescue operations. There will be another seal releasing this July 18, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Quogue Beach Village Pavilion. This October 24 the Riverhead Foundation will hold its 12th Annual 5K Run for the Ridley, and throughout the winter the Riverhead Foundation charters “Seal Cruises” out of Hempstead Bay. For more information on any of these upcoming events call 369-9840.