A female harbor seal pup that was admitted to the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Wildlife Response Program on May 4 is seen here in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy Alaska SeaLife Center)

A female harbor seal pup that was admitted to the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Wildlife Response Program on May 4 is seen here in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy Alaska SeaLife Center)

Rescued harbor seal pup taken to SeaLife Center

Rescue team believes she is only a few days old and premature.

A 12-pound female harbor seal pup is the newest and smallest addition to the Alaska Sea Life Center’s Wildlife Response Program in Seward.

The pup was brought to the SeaLife Center on May 4, a day after it was found near a ferry terminal in Haines, according to a May 11 press release from the SeaLife Center.

The Haines Animal Rescue Kennel rescued the pup and transported it safely to Seward after receiving approval from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to move the animal.

The harbor seal pup was one of two that the team attempted to rescue from Haines over the course of two days, but the first pup died before arriving at the SeaLife Center.

Staff at the SeaLife center were surprised at the size of the surviving pup, according to the release. The pup weighed only 12 pounds and was fully covered in lanugo, which is soft fur that occurs on newborn ice seals but is rarely seen in harbor seals.

“This may be the smallest harbor seal I have seen,” Dr. Carrie Goertz, director of Animal Health said in the release. “Because of her size, lanugo, and various exam and diagnostic results, we believe she is only a few days old and premature.”

According to Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game, harbor seals typically weigh about 24 pounds at birth.

The staff at the SeaLife Center expect a long road to recovery for the harbor seal pup, who likely has an immature immune system from being a premature birth.

The pup had no physical trauma upon admission to the SeaLife Center, but veterinary staff did report “obvious” respiratory and cardiovascular issues.

“Her situation is critical, though she does seem to be getting stronger,” Jane Belovarac, wildlife response curator, said in the release.

Caring for wildlife response patients like the seal pup has become more complicated under new regulations issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It requires us to be more thoughtful and efficient when more than one person is needed to accomplish procedures,” Goertz said. “We all wear masks, plan a lot in advance, and move apart as soon as possible.”

The SeaLife Center still encourages people to call the center’s rescue hotline at 1-888-774-7325 if they see a marine animal in distress.

The SeaLife Center is currently assessing stranding events on a case-by-case basis to ensure staff safety.

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