The Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward welcomed a Homer bay resident April 25, after a newborn seal pup was rescued from the mud flats near the Homer Spit.
According to a news release from the center, staff from ASLC were serendipitously already in the area for a volunteer training when the pup was reported as stranded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The stranded mammal is the first rescue of 2015 for ASLC through the Wildlife Response Program, an effort that rescues and rehabilitates anywhere between five to 15 harbor seals in a typical year.
The arrival of the harbor seal was a bit surprise, though, as April does not often see rescues for the small mammals. ASLC veterinarian Carrie Geortz stated that the earliest seal-pup rescues took place May 16 in 2014 and May 29 in 2013, both of which had come from the Homer area.
The 18-pound female named “Silky” was found with minor injuries and a white lanugo coat, which the center reported is often an indicator of premature birth, which can be caused by a number of factors ranging from the age or nutritional status of a harbor seal giving birth to environmental factors, such as weather or algal blooms.
“Silky is currently being fed five times a day with a formula created specifically for seals that contains all of the nutrients and calories needed to help seal pups grow,” wrote ASLC CEO Tara Riemer. “The pup is currently in stable condition and staff say she is very feisty.”
It’s not known how Silky ended up stranded on the flats, but extreme tides in the area could have a hand in the range of location that harbor seals choose to pup.
With no significant injuries, though, ASLC is hopeful that Silky will return to Kachemak Bay.
“In fact the goal is to release healthy animals back into their home range,” wrote Geortz in an email. “Over 90 percent of the harbor seals who are admitted to our stranding program are able to be released following rehabilitation.”