We’re halfway through our busiest time of year and we wanted to send a quick update about what we’ve been up to. HINT: It’s been BUSY! July is typically our busiest month responding to strandings and on average we respond to 78 marine mammal and sea turtle cases in the month of July alone. Read on below for some of the cases we’ve had so far this year and learn more about some great upcoming events. Thank you for being a member of our community and supporting Marine Mammals of Maine. Everything we do is made possible by our volunteers and supporters.
Last time we sent an update we wrote “Some could say this is the winter of the gray seals!” As winter turned into spring and summer the season of the grays continued! After releasing four gray seal patients in late winter we admitted three more in need of critical care. All three were released in May (like Mosaic pictured here) just as harbor seal pupping season was beginning. We also admitted a gray seal in June who was in the beginning stages of decline. Being able to intervene before he became too sick, he just needed a short stay to receive critical hydration before being re-released.
In the middle of harbor seal pup season, two more young gray seals stranded in southern and Midcoast, Maine in need of life-saving care. While our center was full with harbor seal pups, we just couldn’t leave them out there! With some creative rearranging and extra staff time, we squeaked them in for stabilization care and then transported to another hospital. One was just released yesterday! We’re proud of the successful rehabilitation and release of 8 gray seals since January and thank you to all our community members who helped make this possible.
While we’ve increased our community outreach and education significantly over the past few years in order to help prevent human interactions that lead to many of our abandoned pup patients we still see a very high volume of calls this time of year. We admitted our first pup of the year on April 19 and have been responding to and admitting pups in need of critical care steadily since that date. We’ve already responded to more abandoned pups than there are currently rehabilitation spaces to accommodate and have transferred some pups to a facility in Massachusetts for care in order to make more space here. We’re currently nearly at capacity again.
Over the last week we have started responding to the first weaned harbor seal pups of the season. Weaned pups are completely independent and no longer nursing from mom, though they are still very small. The process of weaning can be difficult for many pups, often meaning that they are thin, exhausted, and typically have minor wounds and a thin body condition. These weanlings require extra rest in order to most successfully transition to a fully independent life after 3-4 weeks of nursing. As a result, they can often be found on busier beaches appearing too exhausted to flee from people or dogs. We’re working around the clock to return pups in need of critical care to a healthy state, but we need your help to spread the word to help keep pups safe and in the wild!
WHEN ARE YOU TOO CLOSE?
Approaching a seal closely, even just for a moment to snap a picture, or to see if it’s ok, causes significant stress to seals-even small reactions (such as turning to look at you) disturbs their much-needed rest during a time when they are working hard learning to survive on their own after weaning.
Here’s how to be a responsible and safe observer, and what to do to help!
Stay at least 150 feet away (3 school bus lengths), even if it appears sick or injured-more distance if it reacts to your presence.
**Even just approaching closely and making a seal lift and turn its head to look at you like the one in this photo can cause significant stress that is unrecognizable to people!**
Report it! In Maine, report all live and deceased marine mammals and sea turtles to 1-800-532-9551
Help keep other people and dogs away
Share this info to get the word out!
*The photo above was taken by our response team with a zoom lens for health assessment purposes-once this reaction from the seal was observed-even at a distance, our responder backed away even further to minimize stress.
Answering the Call
Seals aren’t the only strandings that we respond to. Large whales, porpoise, dolphins and sea turtles are less frequent than seal calls, but we know that these cases offer invaluable data. We seek to learn as much as we can about these species when they strand, even when these cases present logistically challenging circumstances. Over the past several months we’ve responded to a stranded minke whale (at 2 am!), spotted dolphin (pictured here this is the first time we’ve responded to this species), multiple harbor porpoise and even recorded our first leatherback sea turtle reports of the year last week. Pictured below is our intern, Hannah, collecting valuable data from a stranded leatherback sea turtle, an endangered species. With each case we learn more about what’s happening in the ocean ecosystem and the stressors that these species are facing.
Ocean Commotion 5K Registration is Open!
MMoME’s largest, and possibly most scenic, event of the year is scheduled for October 14, 2023. We’ll also host a virtual challenge during the week preceding the in-person event. Join us for a chip timed run, timed or untimed walk, kids fun run and more. Register today!
Learn and Have Fun!
July 1-10, Lil Jams Cookie Fundraiser– A fun activity for all ages! Your aquatic themed cookie kit comes with all you need to decorate like a pro and a portion of proceeds benefit MMoME. Purchase directly from the Lil Jams website.
July 15-16, LL Bean Summer Sporting Expo. Drop by the MMoME table and say hi!
July 26, 4:30-5:30 pm, A Seal’s Journey at the Falmouth Memorial Library
July 29, 11 am-3 pm, Woofstock at the Kennebunk Animal Welfare Society
And, in case you missed it, our Executive Director, Lynda was in Miami this spring as part of a summit with other CNN Heroes. Check out this video of Lynda helping with a beach cleanup while there!