Reassessing Seal Rescue – The Netherlands Has Decided To Rescue Less ‘Stranded’ Seals

Source: Hakai Magazine/Cathleen O’Grady 

Photo: Mike Baird/Wikimedia Commons 

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Streya was born in summer on a wide, windswept beach on the Dutch coast of the Wadden Sea. At a week old, the tiny harbor seal pup—about the size of a small corgi—was alone on the beach, no mother in sight. Then she was snatched. By the time the well-meaning beachgoers presented her to a local animal rescue network, there was no possibility of reuniting the pup with her mother.

For two hours, Streya cowered in a large wicker basket in the back of a moving vehicle swaying its way to a seal sanctuary in the remote village of Pieterburen. The animal rescue team had called ahead and now, with Streya’s arrival imminent, Sealcentre Pieterburen is a flurry of activity. “Check that there’s no seal poop in the shoes,” advises seal researcher Andrea Ravignani as he hastily hands me clogs and scrubs. I pull on the borrowed gear and join the throng of vets, nurses, volunteers, and researchers preparing to meet the pup.

From the information relayed by the rescue network volunteers, it sounds to the center staff like there’s nothing actually wrong with Streya. They would have preferred to observe her on the beach to ensure that her mother hadn’t just left to grab a quick meal, a common behavior among harbor seal mothers. While a weaned pup could be checked by the staff and safely released, Streya, still nursing and only a week old, will need to be hand-fed. The center will have to raise her to the point of independence, focused all the while on trying to keep her wild.

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Photo: Mike Baird/Wikimedia Commons

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