A crowd gathered at Pat’s Landing in Wrangell recently to watch the release of ‘Margo’ a baby seal pup who was rescued back in May near the Wrangell harbor. Margo was only about 4-days-old when local Stephen McHolland and a friend found her sitting alone on the downtown harbor dock.
“Matt and I were just going down to check on the boat and we heard this awful noise at the end of the harbor and then we saw this baby seal desperately trying to get up on the dock. We went back later and she was up on the dock,” he says.
They waited for a bit to make sure the seal pup was in fact orphaned, and at that point began making some calls.
“I didn’t know what to do, who do you call for a baby seal? So I called Chris and she made a bunch of calls, and I guess she called the Sealife Center,” he says.
“They said yeah you can pick it up and put it in a kennel. I then took it to my shop for the night and the next day it was on the plane.” That’s Chris Pacheco; she says it was an awesome experience taking care of the pup and say’s they’re fortunate to have center like this in Alaska.
The Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward is the only center of its kind in the state, so for those who do come across injured or orphaned animals they are the ones to call, otherwise according to the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act It’s illegal to keep or injure marine life.
“It’s kind of a bitter sweet for me. You put so much time into these animals, 24-hours a day. Although you make sure these animals don’t bond to you, you always bond to them.” That’s Sea Life Center Coordinator Tim Lebling. He says for months the center has been doing extensive rehabilitation work with Margo to make sure she is fully prepared to be set back into the wild.
Some of that work includes five to six weeks of tube feeding, food foraging practice, followed by a graduation period when the seal is introduced to other marine life at the center and expected to forage and survive on its own. All of this Lebling says is to prepare the animal for the wild.
“This one in particular was fantastic because it came in so weak it was fighting from the get go. And being able to return it out here and have the community support it, it’s really rewarding to me, and knowing I can get on the computer tonight or tomorrow is rewarding as well. I give so much thanks to the community for making that first call,” he says.
On Margo’s back is a state of the art satellite tracking device which enables the center and the public to track the seal, its diet, and location over the next 7 to 8 months. Mary Lanza sponsored Margo’s recovery and says she plans to continue tracking the seal.
“It’s a great opportunity to get awareness out to all the communities that this program even exists, and no matter where they are in Alaska can help with the preservation of these animals. And this would have been an animal that otherwise would not have survived,” she says.
To track ‘Margo’ the seal pup or for more information about the Alaska Sealife Center, go to Alaskasealife.org.
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