Seal pup gets help from SeaLife Center

Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2001

KENAI(AP) -- Oil terminal workers rescued a starving female seal pup Tuesday on a beach south of Drift River.

''When you see her, you could not pass her up without doing something,'' said Steve Letzring, who works for Cook Inlet Pipeline at the Drift River Oil Terminal on Cook Inlet's west side.

He and his co-worker David Keim were following bear tracks when they noticed that the bear had been circling as if looking for something. Searching the area, they found the little seal above the high water mark.

They thought the pup may have washed up on the beach in recent storms, Letzring said.

They and co-worker Curtis Pennington called the Alaska SeaLife Center, which has a hot line for stranded or injured marine mammals or birds. The center's staff advised them to leave the seal on the beach and keep an eye on it for six to 10 hours.

''We encourage people to observe them to be sure the mother is not around,'' said rehabilitation technician Tim Lebling.

The men transmitted a digital photo of the pup to the center's staff.

About 3 a.m. Tuesday they took the seal in and the animal was transported to the Seward center.

Lebling said a typical harbor seal pup weighs about 25 pounds at birth. The foundling weighed 16 pounds.

''This guy is definitely emaciated,'' Lebling said.

Lebling said the first 48 hours in captivity would be crucial in determining if the animal would live or die. The pup was given fluids to combat dehydration and formula to replace the rich milk of a mother seal.

Two other seal pups were already at the SeaLife Center. One is a ringed seal from the Kotzebue area and the other a harbor seal from Kodiak, Lebling said.

If all goes well, the pups will eat formula and eventually be weaned onto a diet of fish. In a couple months, seal pups can catch fish on its own. At that point, the center plans to release them back into the wild, he said.

Lebling said the freed animals will be tagged with satellite beacons that will feed signals to the Internet, allowing school children to track the seals.



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