As we welcome spring we say goodbye to some of the winter seals that have been along Maine’s shores and receiving care in our facility, and begin to wind down the winter research season. We’re also busy preparing for warmer temperatures and the activities that they bring, including planning our summer educational and outreach events and preparing for harbor seal pupping season.
It has been a very busy winter for Marine Mammals of Maine, here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to and what your support has enabled us to accomplish over the last few months!
Four Gray Seals Released
Some could say this is the winter of the gray seals! These past few months have been dominated by young gray seal pups, both in the field, and in our care at the center. In previous years, harp seals make up the majority of our hotline calls and patients, but this year it has been the reverse! Every year is a little different, with a vast number of factors impacting marine mammal strandings and health. To date, 19 marine mammal cases have been reported to our hotline, and 7 seals have come through our center-all but one of which were young gray seals!
In late March four of our patients, Sunshine, Dexxy, Titan and Breaker, were released after receiving much-needed care since January. Dexxy, the gray seal pup featured in our February Friday Night Video, who made headlines after making his way 1/4 mile inland during a snowstorm at 2 am, was outfitted with a satellite tracking tag. Dexxy is the perfect candidate to collect critical post-release data from. With so many unknowns about this species, his tag will help us, and the marine science community learn more about gray seal movements and habitat use. Additionally, learning about his post-rehab life in the wild helps centers like ours provide the best care possible for current and future patients.
Below is a map of Dexxy’s post-release tag data.
Just as 4 gray seals were preparing for release, two more were reported in need of critical care.
With harbor seal pup season right around the corner, we’ve been trying to prepare the center for their specialized care, but we felt the need to step in to help these two. So, we squeaked them in. This is #21, we are working on getting weight on him, and healing a large, infected wound on his shoulder. He doesn’t have a fast or easy road ahead of him, but he has it in him to fight, so we will too!
Our favorite kind of patient: providing a big impact in a short period of time
So far this year, we have not received many reports of harp seals-a species that lives in the more northern latitudes of the North Atlantic Ocean, such as Canada and Greenland, and travels to the Gulf of Maine in the winter and back north around April and May.
As a result, we have not had any harp seal patients in 2023, until #27 stranded last week! At our center, this young harp seal’s diagnostic test results indicated that he was very dehydrated. Having seen this numerous times in the past, we knew he would not recover without significant support. We started aggressive fluid therapy and provided lots of ice for him to munch on. He received treatments through the night, and 24 hours later his electrolytes were back to normal-he went from failing to thrive, to strong and thriving. Watch the video of his beautiful sunrise release.
MMoME in the News
We’re thrilled about the increased news coverage that seals in our area are receiving lately. In addition to Dexxy capturing the public’s attention and affection for his story, MMoME’s Executive Director Lynda Doughty and board member, Kristina Cammen recently appeared on Maine Calling with stranding network partners from Allied Whale. They discussed Maine’s seals, ongoing research and answered questions from the public. You can listen to the recording of the show here.
On March 15 a paper on HPAI in New England Seals was offered via early release in the scientific journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, and MMoME staff are proudly represented as co-authors. The data for the paper relies in large part on MMoME’s response to the current HPAI Unusual Mortality Event declared in July 2022. The abstract of the paper says “our data indicate monitoring both wild coastal birds and marine mammals will be critical to determine pandemic potential of influenza A viruses,” and is another reminder of the critical role that our response volunteers and staff play in advancing the scientific understanding of our complex ocean ecosystem and its intersection with human ecology.
This New York Times article summarizes the findings, and the full publication can be found here.
We’re gearing up for another busy season of educational and outreach activities and hope to see you at an event in the coming months! Our online events calendar is updated frequently this time of year as new events are added regularly. Our library series is beginning to take shape and we’ll be offering educational talks to libraries and community groups across the state throughout the summer months. Not local to Maine? Some presentations are offered virtually! Stay tuned to the calendar as those dates and locations are finalized.
April 22, 9:30 am-noon, Wells Beach Cleanup- MMoME volunteers will be on hand to chat and answer your marine mammal questions at both entrances to Wells Beach. Help with the clean up and visit MMoME volunteers!
April 26, 6:30- 10:00 pm, J.R. Maxwell Benefit for MMoME– The upper dining room will be reserved for MMoME supporters to dine, with 100% of proceeds from your dinner going to MMoME! Reservations are recommended, call (207) 443-2014.
May 7, 8 am- 3:30 pm, Wild Oats Bakery & Cafe- Pup Shower for MMoME! Stay tuned, details coming soon.