Today there is one more healthy seal in the sea as Nellie the harp seal returns to the ocean after nearly seven weeks of rehab. This sassy little seal awkwardly flopped her way across 100 feet of sandy shore under the Ponquogue Bridge in the Hampton Bay just east of Long Island before drifting off into the deep where she will hopefully live a long and healthy life after some shaky beginnings.
Nellie, the one year old harp seal who was believed to come from the water up north by Canada was found on the beach by Coney Island on March 1st. When Nellie was discovered, she was malnourished, dehydrated and suffered from a respiratory infection as well as other wounds. At the time, Nellie was only around 55 pounds, well underweight for a one year old seal which should have weighed over 200 pounds. She was taken in by the local Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.
After being plucked from the New York City beach, Nellie was treated by veterinarians who gave her a full physical, treating lesions and running blood tests before they prescribed her antibiotics and pumping fluids and nutrients through a tube until she was able to digest solid food again. While many marine animals that are wounded and taken into recovery are never released, the Riverhead Foundation stood firm on their stance that Nellie belonged back in the sea and did everything they possibly could to make sure that happened. As Nellie recovered from malnutrition and respiratory infection, she was able to move onto solid food. She grew quickly after that. The harp seal that washed up weighed 55 pounds, but by the end of her treatment Nellie was up to standard size at 255 pounds.
Harp seals prefer to spend most of their time in the ocean water, only gathering on land in large colonies which is why finding a solitary harp seal at Coney Island was quite strange to the Riverhead Foundation. Another oddity is that the harp seal prefer the cooler waters of the Arctic and North Atlantic, so what brought Nellie to New York City is still up for speculation. However, with a crowd of 200 well-wishers, Nellie was released back in the ocean yesterday where marine biologist and the helpful veterinarians that treated her hope she will find her harp seal colony again.