Marine Mammals of Maine's Rehabilitation Center
In 2017, one year after receiving federal authorization to temporarily triage seals, Marine Mammals of Maine (MMoME) received additional permitting to provide long-term rehabilitative care for seals, bringing rehab back to Maine! When University of New England's marine mammal rehabilitation program closed its doors in 2014, the MMoME team went straight to work to fill this gap in essential coverage, accomplishing this feat in three years.
Fast forward to 2019 and MMoME has already doubled our capacity to provide long-term rehabilitative care for seals. While initial permitting allowed MMoME to care for two seals long-term, MMoME has since obtained the required federal permitting to rehab up to four seals at once, depending on age class and species. We are always working to increase capacity, but it is not a quick process.
With our current federal permitting, we are able to provide a long-term care option for only a fraction of the animals reported throughout our region. While there is merit to increasing our rehabilitation capacity, it is important to note that the rehabilitation process is less than ideal for a wild animal. If we determine that an animal is maternally abandoned or otherwise likely to not survive in the wild without intervention, MMoME will step in to give this individual a fighting chance in a rehabilitation setting. For young dependent pups, it is simply impossible to artificially recreate the ideal nutritional requirements that a mother seal is able to provide, and so rehabilitation is always the last option.
Between July 2017 and May 2019, MMoME has rehabilitated and released 11 seals!
Of these 11 seals rehabbed by MMoME thus far, five have been harbor seals and six have been harp seals. Three seals have been deployed with non-invasive satellite tags, contributing to the growing scientific understanding of seal migratory patterns and habitat usage in the Gulf of Maine and beyond.
The rehabilitation process serves as a critical platform for monitoring the greater marine mammal populations and ocean health, as well as learning about seals.
What's the difference between triage and rehab?
Our triage patients are seals that will be transferred to other centers but are not immediately stable enough for the long transports, requiring temporary critical care first. Our rehabilitation patients are seals that will undergo their entire recovery at our center until they can be released.
How long does the rehabilitation process take for a seal?
The answer to this question depends on the age of the seal upon admit, the species, and any overt or underlying medical conditions requiring attention, such as malnourishment or infection.
Harbor seal pups require a minimum of three months of intensive rehabilitative care, though it is not uncommon for these young seals to require a bit more time. Dependent pups must be weaned off pup formula once old enough and then learn to eat fish on their own. Once a pup is weaned, they need to gain a substantial amount of weight before they will be considered fit for release. A prematurely-born harbor seal rehabilitated by MMoME in 2018 remained in our care for seven months. "Premie" reached her developmental benchmarks at a slower pace than her full-term counterparts and had more ground to cover before being deemed release-ready. A juvenile of any species, however, is typically less of a time commitment and may only require one or two months of care in our facility, depending on their reason for being admitted to rehab.
Our staff works closely with our veterinarian, who has over 20 years of experience working with marine mammals, in determining the most appropriate treatment options for the seals in our care.
How much does it cost to rehabilitate a seal?
Get ready for this figure... It costs approximately $6-8,000 to rehabilitate one seal. Talk about costly!
Looking for ways to help?
Expanding our rehab capacity will take considerable funding and federal permitting, and is not an overnight process. To learn about the many ways to help, visit the “Get Involved” or “Donate” sections.