It’s that time of year again -- pupping season has begun! Our first newborn pup of the year arrived this week: a Pacific harbor seal named Puck, like the mischievous spritely character in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
After about two and a half months at The Marine Mammal Center, Puck was ready to return to the ocean. During her time at the Center, she gained a significant amount of weight, learned to swallow fish, and passed all the necessary tests needed to clear her for release. She was transported out to Chimney Rock, near the tip of Point Reyes, along with two other harbor seals, Lila and Sculptor, and three elephant seals, Baxter, Jabu, and Wilder. Together they all returned to their natural habitat, fulfilling a critical part of the Center's mission.
February 13, 2014
Puck was found alone on the beach at Loon Point between Summerland and Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County, California. Stranding experts determined that she had been separated from her mother a few days after birth, possibly during a high tide event that swept her away from a nearby rookery.
Puck was transported to The Marine Mammal Center’s satellite facility in Morro Bay, where she began receiving nearly round-the-clock care, with feedings starting at 7 a.m. and continuing until midnight.
After spending a night there, she was transported to our Monterey Bay satellite facility in Moss Landing, where she continued to receive special care for another night. These satellite facilities allow us to transport newborn pups gradually over a period of several days to help reduce the stress of a long car trip and keep the animals on a regular feeding schedule.
Once Puck arrived at our hospital in Sausalito, she underwent a full physical exam so we could find out whether she needs any special care.
During Puck’s admit exam, Koret Foundation Veterinary Intern Dr. Greg Frankfurter:
- Listened to her heart and lungs
- Checked her abdomen and lymph nodes for any abnormalities
- Looked at her gums and checked for signs of teeth
- Took a blood sample
- Examined her umbilical stump
Based on the tooth buds found during Puck’s exam, Dr. Frankfurter estimates that she is 8-10 days old, which means she got separated from her mother much too young to fend for herself. Pups this young are still nursing, so Puck must be tube-fed a special milk formula five times a day.
Our veterinary staff is keeping a close eye on a minor infection in Puck’s umbilical stump, the wound left after her umbilical cord fell off. But aside from this relatively common problem, she appears to be bright, alert and doing well. Puck will remain under our care for several months until she gains a healthy amount of weight and is able to survive on her own in the wild.
© Sarah van Schagen - The Marine Mammal Center
Leave Seals Be
While Puck is the first pup to arrive this year, she won’t be the last. During the first six months of the year, mother seals and sea lions give birth at rookeries all along the California coast – and that means we start to see more and more pups as patients here at The Marine Mammal Center.
If you see a seal pup on a beach that looks ill or injured, resist the urge to pick it up and remember that it’s always best to leave seals be. Instead, call The Marine Mammal Center at 415-289-SEAL (7325).
Find out more about our Leave Seals Be campaign.
Learn about Pacific harbor seals!
Read about the Marine Mammal Protection Act