Just over two weeks after two young harbor seals released by Alaska SeaLife Center staff disappeared into the waters of Cook Inlet, the center on Saturday returned to North Kenai Beach to send off another three seals.
All five of the seals were rescued by the center’s Wildlife Response Program earlier this summer, after the pups were found stranded and alone with umbilical cords still attached. This summer, nine total pups were admitted by the program.
At the previous release on Sept. 7, only a couple of dozen people braved the wind and rain to see two seals, Darth Tater and Tuber, released by the center.
On Saturday, hundreds gathered to see the release, standing on the sand and even out in the water. Center staff parted the crowd to make a wide lane, as three large seal-carrying-crates were carried from a truck. Even before they were released, the seals could be seen gazing out at the crowd, one reaching up with both flippers against the plastic windows.
The seals were Pierogi, Pringle and Belle de Fontenay. Each was rescued in early June. Pierogi in Nikiski, Pringle in Homer and Belle in Kachemak Bay.
Each of the crates were opened at the same time, but only one seal took off for the water. The seal who had been raring to go — flippers against the windows — swiftly entered the waves, but then stayed close, looking back at the crowd only feet away. The other two seals were more reluctant to leave their crates, but finally did make their way out to sea.
To report an injured or stranded marine animal in Alaska, call the 24-hour Stranded Marine Animal Hotline at 1-888-744-7325.
For more information about the Alaska SeaLife Center and for continuing updates about the wildlife response patients, visit facebook.com/AlaskaSeaLifeCenter.
Reach reporter Jake Dye at email@example.com.