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    Saturday, September 23, 2023

    Shoebert the seal surrendered to police before Mystic Aquarium rehab

    Shoebert, a male Grey Seal was recently treated at Mystic Aquarium and released into the wild after an adventure in Beverly, Mass , where he ended up on the steps of the local police department. (Photo courtesy of Mystic Aquarium)

    Mystic ― A wayward Grey Seal, had the adventure of a lifetime when he crossed a large industrial park parking lot, next to a busy highway, in the middle of the night, to arrive on the doorstep of a Massachusetts police department.

    Officer Mike Boccuzzi, press information officer for the Beverly Police Department, said the seal was initially spotted Sept. 15 in Shoe Pond, near the police department.

    Locally, the 4 1/2-year-old Grey Seal had been nicknamed Shoebert in honor of the pond.

    Boccuzzi said the seal stayed there until last Friday morning “when he waddled his way 330 yards away from the pond and right to our front gate-- so he turned himself in.”

    That was a day after a group of rescue organizations including Mystic Aquarium tried to capture the seal.

    “During that day, several attempts were made kind of to corral him and get him out of the pond and get him to a safer place. Those were to no avail,” Boccuzzi said.

    But when Shoebert arrived at the police station the next day, he was taken into custody without incident and transported to Mystic Aquarium.

    Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program Manager, Sarah Callan, arrived in Beverly last Thursday and was still in the area when the seal showed up at the police department at 2:15 a.m. Friday morning. She said Shoebert had crossed an entire parking lot, which was adjacent to Route 62, a busy highway.

    “That was the main concern-- why we wanted to get him out of the pond. He could have survived in there for a while,” she said, but they worried he might accidentally wander out onto the roadway.

    The aquarium responds to more than 100 calls about seals that may need assistance each year and take in about 20 for evaluation, medical care or rehabilitation. Four years ago, one of those seals was Shoebert.

    In fact, Shoebert was known by “Jekyll,” when he arrived at the aquarium from Cape Cod four years ago for treatment of injuries.

    “We knew who it was even before we rescued him,” Callan said, explaining that they had been able to identify him by some unique markings.

    When he arrived in April of 2018, Shoebert had a gash on the left side of his face as well as an additional injury which kept him at the aquarium until August of that year.

    Jess Varrato, an animal rescue technician at the aquarium said, “he had surgery on one of his flippers to remove part of the digit because he had an infection while he was here during that time, and then he was flipper tagged and released.”

    Varrato was doing an internship at the aquarium in 2018 and worked with Shoebert during his rehabilitation.

    “Clearly, he did well. He’s nice and chunky and healthy,” she said.

    This visit, Jekyll weighed in at 235 pounds, which is a healthy weight for a grey seal his age. He is considered a sub-adult, as Grey Seals reach adulthood between four and six years of age. As an adult, he will weigh closer to 800 pounds.

    During his brief stay, he also had blood tests, x-rays, and a full veterinary checkup before he received a clean bill of health. On Monday, he was sedated and fitted with a satellite tracker on his back that will help researchers learn more about seal ranges and habits.

    By Tuesday afternoon, the “repeat offender,” as Callan called him, was back in the wild. The aquarium kept details quiet and released him in a private location for his safety because he has generated so much public interest.

    “They don’t have to be released where they were rescued or anything like that. They find their way and find a good spot to find some food,” Varrato said.

    Both Callan and Varrato commented on the wonderful coincidence that led Shoebert back to them all these years later.

    “It’s full circle, I mean out of all the seals,” Callan marveled.

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