Grey seal pup dies less than two weeks after being rescued from Ocean City street

A lost baby seal found wandering along an Ocean City street earlier this month sadly has died less than two weeks after being rescued.

The male grey seal pup, which was in the care of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, was being treated for parasites and a possible respiratory infection. He was also underweight and receiving nutritional support. Staff at the rescue organization said they had been “hopeful” about the seal’s condition in recent days, especially after he began showing more interest in food and eating small fish on his own, but he showed a “very sudden and rapid decline” on Monday, evening, the MMSC wrote on Facebook.

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Staff attempted to resuscitate the pup — which was between 4-6 weeks old and weighed just less than 29 pounds — but he died a few minutes after his health took a turn. A full necropsy will be performed in an attempt to determine what may have caused the seal’s health to decline so quickly, the MMSC said.

“This is always the hardest part of animal rescue,” the MMSC wrote Tuesday. “While we know we can’t save them all, every loss still hurts. Thank you to our dedicated staff and MMSC veterinarian Dr. Hubert Paluch for doing everything possible to try to give him a second chance. We also want to thank the residents of Ocean City and everyone who rallied around this little seal, we know that you are hurting as much as we are today.”

On Feb. 7, the Marine Mammal Stranding Center had received reports about the wayward seal in the area around 42nd Street and West Avenue, at the south end of the shore town.

The seal is believed to have passed through a home’s backyard and then moved to the sidewalk before scooting up the middle of 42nd Street, the wildlife rescue center said. At one point, onlookers reported the seal was almost struck by a car, and an Ocean City police officer eventually stopped traffic allowing it to cross through multiple intersections.

The animal traveled 1/4 mile in a 20 minute span on the roads. He was headed toward the ocean and within 100 yards of a beach ramp when he was taken in by MMSC rescuers, according to the organization.

Seal pups are born on islands and sometimes lose their sense of direction, the center said. When that happens, they tend to wander until they can find a body of water. Their likelihood of getting lost increases when there are coastal flood advisories and navigation becomes more difficult. The MMSC urges drivers in shore communities to be on alert for lost seals wandering through towns.

It’s currently grey seal pup migration season, according to the MMSC. Pups between 4-6 weeks old are making a long swim from their birthing grounds in New England and Canadian waters down to New Jersey. By this point the babies are weaned from their mothers and are on their own, hunting and fending for themselves for the first time. 

In January, a female grey seal pup was rescued from a Point Pleasant Beach sidewalk and is still resting in the MMSC’s ICU, and at one point last week, the MMSC said it was caring for eight grey seal pups at its facility. On Feb. 15, the MMSC rescued a female grey seal pup found entangled in plastic in Beach Haven and a male grey seal pup in Brigantine, who was still covered in his birth coat and estimated to be 2-3 weeks old. On Valentine’s Day, a female grey seal pup was found injured and stranded on a Sea Isle beach.

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