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    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    Aquarium prepares to release seal pup rescued in Bermuda

    A three-month-old gray seal eats a fish Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at Mystic Aquarium. The seal was rescued in Bermuda, when it was approximately 5 to 6 weeks old, and arrived in Mystic March 21, 2023, for treatment, rehabilitation and release. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    A three-month-old gray seal, Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at Mystic Aquarium that was rescued in Bermuda when it was approximately 5 to 6 weeks old. The seal was transported to Mystic Aquarium March 21, 2023, for treatment, rehabilitation and release. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    A three-month-old gray seal, Wednesday, March 29, 2023, at Mystic Aquarium that was rescued in Bermuda when it was approximately 5 to 6 weeks old. The seal was transported to Mystic Aquarium March 21, 2023, for treatment, rehabilitation and release. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Mystic— An adventurous seal pup arrived at Mystic Aquarium last week after an international trip from Bermuda.

    “He either was born here and the current took him over there, which would be extremely unusual that he could survive that, or he was born there; we’ll never know,” Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program Manager, Sarah Callan said.

    The pup was initially rescued Feb. 18 by the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, after resident Ruby Dill discovered him on the beach during her morning walk. She named him Northlands in honor of the school her granddaughter attends.

    Callan said Northlands, who has been nicknamed Lando by rescue program staff in Mystic, was only about five weeks old when he was rescued.

    Her estimate is based on the fact that when he was rescued he still had lanugo, a white fur that pups are born with that helps keep them warm, on his hind flippers. Pups begin to shed the lanugo when they are three to four weeks old.

    The pup weighed less than 30 pounds when rescued and received weeks of care from veterinary and husbandry staff at the Bermuda facility to bring him up to a healthy weight.

    Gray seal pups are born between December and February and weigh about 30 pounds. At birth, they are equipped with all their teeth and nurse for just three weeks before they are on their own.

    At the end of the three weeks, seal pups should weigh between 70 and 100 pounds, though they will lose some of that in their first few weeks of independence.

    “He was severely underweight, and the folks at Bermuda did a fantastic job,” Callan said, noting that this was only the fifth seal stranding the Bermuda facility has ever encountered.

    Because gray seals live along the coast in the colder waters of the North Atlantic, the facility in Bermuda could not release him locally, and reached out to Mystic’s rescue program about the possibility of taking Lando for further rehabilitation and release.

    “There’s no food resources for them out there, so he definitely would not have survived,” Callan said.

    She explained that gray seals are opportunistic feeders, but they primarily eat herring, and the fish found in the warm waters off Bermuda do not have the caloric density to support seals the way cold water fish do.

    In 2019, Mystic Aquarium collaborated with the Bermuda aquarium on the rescue of a female gray seal named Lou-Seal, who, with the financial support of citizens in Bermuda, was cared for and transported to Mystic for continued rehabilitation before being released.

    This prior collaboration made the process a little more smooth this time, but it still involved numerous government agencies from both countries and more than a week of paperwork. Callan said the United States Fish and Wildlife Service was instrumental in navigating the paperwork to bring in a wild animal from another country.

    Cargojet donated the use of a plane and the costs associated with Lando’s flight, and, on March 20, he boarded the plane in a specially outfitted crate and flew from Bermuda to New York, where he, like any international visitor, had to be cleared through customs before being released to Callan and rescue program staff. He arrived at his temporary Mystic Aquarium home in the early morning hours of March 21.

    Physical exams and blood work showed no health issues, and his behavior indicates a promising future.

    “He’s very curious. He’s definitely got the feistiness we like to see in these guys, and that’s what they need to survive out there,” she said.

    Since his arrival, Lando has gained approximately 16 pounds. He is being fed 6 pounds of herring a day, and now weighs a healthy 60 pounds.

    He has been tagged with a flipper tag, and before his release, rescue program staff will also tag him with a satellite tracker that will allow them to track his progress and location.

    “He is well on his way to being released back home now,” she said adding that he will be released in the near future.

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