Much to the delight of onlookers, staffers from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center released a rehabilitated harbor seal back into the wild in Mystic Island today.
The male seal was found injured on a Sea Isle City beach in January, according to Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Brigantine-based organization that rescues, rehabilitates, and releases all types of marine animals.
“He is blind in his left eye, but the right eye is functional,” Schoelkopf said. “He is able to catch his own food.”
The seal was in such a hurry to leave the transport crate and waddle into the Great Bay that he broke a toenail, although Schoelkopf said that it’s not an uncommon behavior. Coagulation began once the blubbery marine mammal hit water, he added.
Now that the seal is swimming, “he’ll hang out in the area until May, then possibly end up as far north as Maine or Canada,” Schoelkopf said, adding that technicians affixed an identification tag to his rear flipper.
Seals, which are federally protected, are common visitors to the New Jersey shores during the cooler months.