Things were hopping Friday for marine animal rescuers, with phone calls starting before 7 a.m., reporting three live seal pups, an entangled harbor seal and another seal that didn’t make it, all washed up on Suffolk County shores.
Seasoned phone callers were able to provide good enough descriptions of the pups, found in Amagansett, East Hampton and Montauk, to assure biologists that their behavior appeared normal, so there was no need at this time for site visits, said Rob DiGiovanni Jr., senior biologist and executive director of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.
A team was dispatched, though, to Smith Point on Fire Island to tend to the entangled seal, a female, who suffered “deep lacerations around the neck,” resulting from since-removed marine debris — twine, he said.
Close to 40 pounds and about 3 feet long, the seal cow is considered to be in critical condition, due to the deep wound and potential for infection, he said. She’s under treatment at the foundation’s facility, on antibiotics, being rehydrated and fed a fish slurry — think “MacDonald’s shake, but different,” DiGiovanni said.
The seal that did not survive washed up on Gilgo Beach, he said.
With his “pager going off all morning” and a dedicated team member on the phone “pretty much all morning,” he praised the callers for their reports, many of the same creature. He encourages calls, whether the creature appears to need help or not, to the foundation’s 24-hour hotline at 631-369-9829.
Also vital is for the public to give these animals a very wide berth — 150 feet — as they’re “federally protected, and interaction is not only illegal, but it can cause more harm to these animals,” according to the foundation’s Facebook page.
Seal rescue season, starting last month and running through the spring, is in full swing, said spokeswoman Rachel Bosworth. That’s as, with temperatures rising, more people are out on beaches and are spotting the creatures, who stick around Long Island until the warmer conditions nudge them to head for cooler waters farther north.
Those interested in helping to clear marine debris — the kind Friday’s rescued seal got caught up in — from area beaches can participate Sunday in the foundation’s Pick It Up initiative. Clean up is planned for 10 a.m. to noon at the following beaches: Ponquogue Beach, Hampton Bays; Roanoke Beach, Riverhead; Fire Island National Seashore Wilderness Center at Smith Point County Park; Crab Meadow Beach, Huntington; Cedar Beach, Mount Sinai.