Today, the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team rescued a live gray seal (Halichoerus grypus) on the Eastern Shore beaches of Fisherman Island and brought it to the Virginia Aquarium Marine Animal Care Center for treatment and rehabilitation.
The team was alerted to the seal’s presence on Monday and its health was evaluated at that time. The male juvenile seal’s weight was lean but not seriously thin and its left eye was irritated, but he was bright, alert and quite active. The seal’s location and activity continued to be monitored all week. However, today’s evaluation of the 50-lb. seal showed that he is suffering from a worsening eye infection and there are now some signs of a respiratory infection as well.
Upon arrival at the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Care Center the seal’s name became apparent – “Eyegore the Maniac.” Stranding Response Information Specialist Christina Trapani said, “We like to give these wild animals the benefit of the doubt that they will be okay before we intervene. It became much more obvious today that he was not going to get better on his own and would need our assistance. The fact that he is actively swimming in and out of the rehab pool and that Eyegore is vocal and aggressive, is a promising sign. We are cautiously optimistic for a full recovery.”
This is the first seal the Stranding Response Team has had in rehab for a couple of years. The team will continue to conduct medical tests to fully evaluate its condition and treatment. Currently the animal’s infections will be treated with antibiotics and other medications as recommended by veterinarians.
Gray seals are seen in Virginia’s coastal waters. Trapani said, “At this time of year, the team is preparing for sea turtle strandings to start so it is a little unusual to have a gray seal around. It could be because Eyegore just wasn’t feeling well enough to head to cooler waters up north.”
The Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program’s mission is to promote the conservation of marine animal species through stranding response, research, rehabilitation and education. It is largely a volunteer-based group operating from the Aquarium’s Marine Animal Care Center in Virginia Beach. The program is supported by the Virginia Aquarium Foundation through donations from the community and grant-making organizations. To report a dead or live stranded marine mammal or sea turtle call the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Program 24-hour hotline at (757) 385-7575.