Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Chitenango- rehabilitated and ready for release

Members from our Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN) will be heading to Anacortes to take a Washington State Ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island where we will meet up with members of the San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network for the release of three harbor seals that have been cared for by the Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and a tour of the Wolf Hollow facility.

Chitenango, one of the three seals ready for release, was found stranded on Village Point Beach on Lummi Island on July 26th. He was observed by WMMSN stranding response team members for two days. Approximately eight days old and weighing barely 14 pounds, he was dehydrated and thin but without any obvious injuries. It became apparent that he had been abandoned and would not be able to survive without intervention. On July 28th, still growing more thin and dehydrated, he was taken to Wolf Hollow for rehab.

Christi Spangler, of our WMMSN stranding response team, took this picture of Chitenango when he was found stranded on the beach prior to his being sent to rehab at Wolf Hollow.
Rehabilitated and ready to be released back into his natural habitat, he was reported to be 49.8 pounds on October 9th. Let's see if you will be able to recognize him in the video and photos we'll be taking during his release! It is heart warming for us to work with wildlife rehab centers like Wolf Hollow, because we know that without their help, many of the stranded seal pups reported to marine mammal stranding networks would not have this second chance.

What can you do to help? You could make a donation to help support the work we do at the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Just contact Mariann Carrasco, Principal Investigator, at, or by phone at 360-303-3608, and she will help you with that. And, if you are interested in volunteering with the WMMSN, contact Robert Ryerson, Director of Volunteers at 360-306-1568, or by email at and he can get you scheduled for training.

The Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitaton Center sent us the following summary on the general process of caring for seal pups, including highlights from the stories of the three pups that we will see released:
Seal Release October 22nd, 2009
Lotis, Chitenango and Dragonfly
We are releasing 3 seal pups today. They were brought to us as young pups that had become separated from their mothers. We estimate their age based on the condition of their umbilical cord and how far their teeth have erupted.
General Treatment and Stages
The treatment for all the pups is basically the same. We start by tube feeding them electrolytes to rehydrate them, (and Subcutaneous (SQ) fluids if they are severely dehydrated), then gradually introduce a special high fat formula. They are fed every 4 hours initially. Some need antibiotics to treat infections and have to have wounds cleaned several times a day. They live in individual tubs in our nursery /intensive care area, where their tub is filled up twice a day to allow them to swim and splash around.
Once they are strong enough and wounds or infections have cleared, they are gradually moved out into a small pool. The final stage is a larger, deeper pool where they can swim and dive.
When their condition is stable, their digestive system is working well, and they have teeth, we start to introduce them to fish. At first these are fed by hand, and we sometimes have to push the fish into their mouths. They gradually learn to chase fish and take them from our hand while they are swimming, then to eat fish on their own off the bottom of the pool. Some learn quickly and go through this process rapidly while others take longer to learn.
One of the main ways we track a pup’s progress is to weigh it regularly. Normal birth weight for a Harbor Seal pup is ~20-25 pounds. Many of the pups we receive weigh much less because they have been separated from their mother for several days and are starving. In the wild, they would nurse on high-fat milk and gain about 1-2 pounds per day, reaching weaning weight of 50-60 pounds in 3-6 weeks. The pups we care for take longer to put on weight because they also have to recover from various problems, but once they are eating fish on their own, they can gain several pounds in a week.
When they reach the required weight, we draw a blood sample to make sure that they are healthy. If the results are all clear, the pup is ready for release. On release day we net them from their pools, weigh them one last time, put a numbered tag on their hind flipper and put them in large carriers for transport to the release site.
Here are some notes on the pups we are releasing today. Note – our naming theme for this year is Endangered Species of invertebrates.
History – Found alone on Jackson Beach , San Juan Island on 7/27. Busy beach with people and dogs around pup. Was picked up by San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network and brought to Wolf Hollow late afternoon 7/27.
Condition – Age ~ 9 days, Sex-Female, Weight – 15.5 pounds. Thin, dehydrated. Infected umbilicus, and puncture wounds on flippers.

Treatment – Rehydrated with oral and SQ fluids and gradually introduced to formula.
Antibiotics for infected wounds. Initial treatment for hypoglycemia and hyperthermia.
Progress Notes – some highlights from her progress
7/27 Arrival at Wolf Hollow. Wt 15.5 pounds. Very thin and dehydrated. Initially non-responsive and having tremors. Treated with cool baths and SQ fluids with dextrose. Recovered within a few hours.
7/29 Active and alert. Enjoyed bath. Wounds badly infected.
8/5 First swim in isolation pool.
8/7 Wounds still infected, lab results indicate use of second antibiotic.
8/9 First fish – swallowed easily. Weight – 19.8 pounds.
8/19 Out in pool full time.
8/21 Weight – 22.4 pounds.
8/27 Eating fish on own off bottom of pool.
8/29 Into big pool.
9/11 Weight 32.3 pounds
9/25 Weight 42.3 pounds.
10/9 Weight 48.9 pounds.

Released 10/22/09 – Weight ___

History - First seen alone on Village Point Beach, Lummi Island 7/26. Observed by NW Marine Mammal Stranding Network for 2 days, then brought to Wolf Hollow 7/28.

Condition – Age ~8 days, Sex – Male, Wt. – 14.6 pounds. Dehydrated, very thin. No apparent injuries.

Treatment – Subcutaneous and oral fluids to rehydrate. Gradual introduction of formula.

Progress Notes – Some highlights
7/28 Arrival at Wolf Hollow – Very thin, and dehydrated. Wt – 14.6 pounds. Gave fluids. No meds required.
7/30 Active in bath but gets cold and shivery very quickly.
8/4 Stronger, more playful in bath.
8/7 Digestive problems, lethargic. Changed formula. Gave antibiotic.
8/8 Weight 16.2 pounds.
8/10 Recovered. Gave first fish – swallowed easily.
8/15 First swim in pool.
8/21 Weight 18.3 pounds.
8/26 In pool full time. Eating fish on own off bottom of pool.
9/5 Moved into big pool.
9/11 Weight 30.4 pounds9/25 Weight 44.1 pounds.
10/9 Weight – 49.8 pounds.

Released 10/22/09 - Weight ___

DRAGONFLYHistory – Alone on shore below Downriggers Restaurant in Friday Harbor. Brought to Wolf Hollow by San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network 7/31.

Condition – – Age ~8 days, Sex – Female, Wt. – 16.4 pounds. Dehydrated and very thin. Infected puncture wounds.

Treatment – Subcutaneous and oral fluids to rehydrate. Gradual introduction to formula.
Antibiotic for infected wounds.

Progress Notes – Some highlights.
7/31 Arrival at Wolf Hollow – thin, dehydrated, lethargic. Wt – 16.4 pounds.
8/3 More active, but quickly gets cold in bath.
8/7 Lethargic, sticky eyes, wounds still infected. Lab tests indicate use of second antibiotic.
8/9 Recovered, active. First fish – swallowed easily.
8/20 First swim in pool. Weight 18.6 pounds.
8/26 In pool full time.
9/10 Eating fish on own off bottom of pool. Weight 26.8 pounds.
9/25 Weight 38.9 pounds.
10/9 Weight 50.3 pounds.

Released 10/22/2009 - Weight - ___