The Story of "Corona"- the Staten Island Seal

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Michele Pagel-Education and Volunteer Coordinator

August 27, 2020

On Easter Sunday 2020, an adult male harp seal was discovered on a jet-ski ramp in Staten Island.  He was very underweight and seemed to be suffering from eye issues.  The seal was nicknamed Corona by the local residents.  The MMSC was contacted about the seal’s plight, and on April 14th, along with the assistance of New York Marine Rescue Center and NY Department of Environmental Control (DEC), MMSC staff was able to capture the seal and bring him back to the center.

Weighing only 185.2 lbs. at intake, Corona was very weak and malnourished, and was afflicted with serious eye issues.  With supportive care, his physical condition improved and he began to gain weight. After several medical evaluations made by our veterinarian and eye surgeon Dr. Dunn, it was determined that he was blind.  Due to the nature of his eye issues, he was at risk for serious water pressure-induced injuries that could lead to a life-threatening infection should he attempt to dive at the depths that harp seals normally hunt for their food (1,300 feet).  Unable to be returned to the wild, his fate was initially uncertain.  After a nation-wide search by MMSC staff and NOAA Fisheries, permanent placement for Corona was found at a public aquarium.  This facility was selected as it would be able to meet his specialized veterinary needs, providing an expansive habitat that mimics the conditions of his Arctic environment and the companionship of other seals of the same species.

While we always prefer to see our seals released back into the wild, our priority is always doing what is best for the individual animals.  As guests visit our beloved harp seal in his new home, we hope that he continues to serve as an ambassador for his wild counterparts, by making a connection to inspire people to care about seals in the wild and protect their Arctic home.

If not for our dedicated staff, faithful volunteers and amazing supporters like YOU, his story could have had a much different ending.  Thank you for caring about Corona, and loving him as much as we do!

Wayward harp seal rescue in Shrewsbury!

MMSC staff and volunteers to the rescue as a lost harp seal is trapped in a duck pond 

Michele Pagel- Education and Volunteer CoordinatorHarp rescue woodsHarp rescue leaves

 March 25, 2020- Shrewsbury, New Jersey

How this adult male harp seal ended up in a duck pond is somewhat of a mystery. Did he wander up the freshwater tributary searching for fish, and climb up the steep embankment to rest? Was he swimming in the area during the recent lunar high tide and get swept through a culvert? One thing was clear, as the underweight seal continued to haul out in the woods, there was nothing for him to eat. Instead, he tried soothing his hunger by eating leaves and mud to no avail. Confused and disoriented, and exhausted from struggling in the mud, we knew he was in need of help. Our dedicated volunteers and concerned property owners monitored the seal as a large scale rescue was planned for Monday.

In the pouring rain, Bob Schoelkopf and stranding staff technician Troy Platt went to the site to work with a team of volunteers to get this seal to safety. Troy donned a dry suit Harp recue 4and safety harness attached to a lifeline, and entered the pond. He immediately sank in the mud, and was now chest deep in the water. Using our specially designed net, Troy was able to capture the seal and bring the frightened animal to the shoreline. With the help of everyone on land, we were able to pull the writhing 200lb seal up the muddy embankment, and carry him through the reeds and thorns 100 yards to our stranding vehicle. 

When we arrived back at the Center, we immediately started the seal on supportive care with fluids and assist feeding fish. He has been placed in our large rehabilitation pool, where he is resting comfortably, swimming well and slowly loosening the caked-on mud off of his body. We want to thank everyone who was involved in assisting with this rescue operation- Volunteers Scott Longfield and Danielle Brown, NJ Fish and Wildlife law enforcement, NOAA law enforcement, and the homeowners who showed us so much support over the past several days. 

THANK YOU to our many donors, without your help we wouldn’t be able to be there for seals in need like this lost harp seal. And to our many fans, THANK YOU for your ongoing support, words of encouragement and for sharing our posts to help spread our mission of RESCUE, REHABILITATE and RELEASE. Harp rescue 2

All photos by Scott Longfield.Harp seal rescue hauled out