Harp seal’s rescue began in West Boothbay Harbor

Fri, 04/03/2020 - 8:00am

    A rescued adult harp seal rehabilitated for about three weeks at the National Marine Life Center in Massachusetts and released into the ocean March 25 began its journey to full health thanks to a West Boothbay Harbor couple.

    On March 3, the seal was discovered by Lynne Tobin and Ty Wilde on an icy ledge near their home in West Boothbay Harbor, so they called the Maine Marine Mammal Hotline (1-800-532-9551) after taking some photos of the mammal.

    “We called about the seal because we thought we were supposed to report any marine mammal that seemed out of place or unusual. We were just amazed at the seal’s size and coloration,” said Tobin via email.

    Tobin said that last February, they called the MMM hotline because a young harp seal was on the ice below their house and they weren’t sure what it was or if it was OK.

    “They saw Ty’s photos and assessed the seal to look normal and healthy,” said Tobin.

    “This year, we took the photos, which were sent to Marine Mammals of Maine. They sent out a volunteer the next day. She, too, photographed the seal and thought he looked fine. We watched the seal go in and out of the water, which we thought meant he was fishing. The following day, the volunteer returned, but the seal was gone.”

    According to information received by Tobin from Marine Mammals of Maine, another adult harp seal was reported on the hotline stranded on Hills Beach in Biddeford on March 5. Photos collected by the response team indicated it was the same seal they responded to on the Tobin/Wilde property (According to MMM, with this species, the organization is able to identify individuals).

    Tobin and Wilde received the following message about the seal from MMM this past week: “He still looked OK, but was on the water's edge due to the number of people that were interacting with him, so we were not able to closely approach him. He was then sighted a few more times in Biddeford over the next few days, and started to show signs of dehydration, but was always gone when we arrived. He was again reported on Pine Point Beach in Scarborough where our team was able to rescue him. He was unfortunately extremely dehydrated at that point, and required critical care at our center. After initial stabilization, we transported him to National Marine Life Center in Massachusetts for the remainder of his recovery. He made a full recovery and was released last week!”

    Marine Mammals of Maine featured the 200-pound seal’s story on the organization’s Facebook page, including a video of the seal’s release in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts.

    “We don’t deserve any credit, but the volunteers and the MMM certainly do,” said Tobin.


    According to the National Marine Life Center’s Facebook site, “Scientists have used heart monitors on seals to identify stress. Their findings indicate that even animals who appear to be calm and undisturbed by people may actually be stressed by human presence. Signs of stress are not always obvious in these animals, yet stressful situations can have significant negative health impacts. Even just approaching a stranded, or healthy marine mammal for a quick picture, or check if it's ok, can be detrimental. Call your local stranding network for help, in Maine, call 1-800-532-9551.”