On May 7, 2018, Brigantine resident Linda Davoli saw a seal on the north-end four-wheel-drive beach that was clearly in distress.
The juvenile male Grey seal had become entangled in a discarded nylon fishing net — one of the most common culprits for killing or injuring hundreds of thousands of aquatic animals every year, according to World Animal Protection (see worldanimalprotection.us) — and hauled itself out of the water near the remnants of the old Brigantine Coast Guard Station.
“I was coming back from fishing up on the north end and I saw this seal lying on the water's edge with this big green net around it,” said Davoli. “As I was driving by, it sort of cocked its head up and looked at me, and then started bounding up frantically toward my truck."
"I kept going but circled back around and stopped at a distance,” she said. “I didn't want to scare it, but I wanted to see what was happening and what it was going to do. Well, he practically came right up to my door — and then collapsed.”
Davoli said she immediately put a call into the MMSC and stayed with the animal, which she initially thought had died.
“I got out and called the Stranding Center, but wasn't even sure if it was still alive at that point,” she said. “Then it opened its eyes and started making this growling noise with its mouth open, almost like it was trying to tell me ‘Get this thing off of me’ as its little flipper was pushing at the net to try to get it off. It was amazing. He knew what he was doing. He was coming up to me for help.”
The seal was caught and taken to the MMSC, where the technicians and the MMSC’s on-call veterinarian, Dr. Hubert Paluch, nursed it back to health. The net had been cutting into the seal's skin like a saw and had caused a deep wound. The net was removed, the wound was then cleaned, and the seal was given antibiotics. After about a month of rehabilitation, diagnostic tests showed that the seal was all healed and he was moved to the MMSC’s recovery pool. On June 18, he was released with two other rehabbed seals at Sandy Hook Gateway National Park.
Keeping a safe distance is the primary code of conduct for anyone who spots a seal on any beach or marshland. The second objective is to report the sighting to the MMSC at 609-266-0538, our 24/7 hotline, so that the Center can always check on the animals to see if they need medical attention. This seal was lucky we were able to find him and rehabilitate him, but he serves as a reminder for us to always be vigilant about our trash and how we affect the lives of these animals. Always properly dispose of your fishing gear and recycle when you can!