(May 3, 2019) A rehabilitated wild harp seal nicknamed “Sally Ride,” was released by the National Aquarium in Baltimore back into the ocean last Thursday at 40th Street in Ocean City.
Sally Ride, who was named after the first female scientist to travel into space, was discovered in Rehoboth, Delaware, on Valentine’s Day.
She had seal lice and suffered from mild dehydration and some respiratory issues. The harp seal was also very underweight.
“She was originally reported in New Jersey at the end of January,” Margot Madden, National Aquarium rehabilitation biologist, said. “She disappeared and [reemerged] in Delaware on Valentine’s Day. They watched her for a day and she declined over the 24-hour period and our colleagues at Delaware collected her and then she came in and started her rehab on Feb. 15.”
The Rehoboth Beach Police called in the MERR Institute – located in Lewes, Delaware – an organization which rescues injured and misplaced marine animals, to collect her.
“She was a little unusual because she kept rolling on her back and doing some strange movements and I thought, ‘This is not normal seal behavior,’” Suzanne Thurman, executive director for the MERR Institute, said. “We did a quick assessment of her overall condition and transported her to the National Aquarium.”
While the MERR Institute can provide basic analysis and first response, it cannot offer all the treatments the animal could require, which is why Sally was taken to Baltimore.
“We only can do first response and the initial care, so we’re always so grateful that the National Aquarium, when they have a spot open, can take them and get them back to healthy conditions,” Thurman said.
The National Aquarium ran further tests on the seal, and named her following its 2018-2019 naming theme for rescue seals – influential scientists. During her stay, Sally doubled her weight, received treatment, IV fluids, anti-inflammatory medications and oral antibiotics to help her heal.
Sally made a full recovery within a matter of months. The National Aquarium made sure to avoid domesticating her, Madden said.
“We like to keep them wild, so she maintained her wild behavior,” Madden said.
Madden also warned about the dangers of approaching a wild seal on the beach. Not only could the encounter be dangerous for the person and seal involved, it is also illegal.
“A lot of people don’t realize these seals are federally protected by the Marine Mammals Protection Act of 1972, which means it is not legal to approach them, touch them, harass them or feed them,” Madden said. “They are also mammals like us and they carry diseases that we could get and vice versa. We can give them [diseases] as well. Even dogs on the beaches are a posed risk. We’re guests in their home at the beach and we need to respect that.”
If a seal or other marine animals are located on the beach, beachgoers are advised to avoid approaching the animal and contacting the near beach patrol employee.