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Riverhead Foundation releases seal, sea turtle after rehab stints

A seal named

A seal named "Catwoman" is released into the water off Hampton Bays by volunteers on Aug. 19, 2015 Photo Credit: John Roca

After several months of rehabilitation, an endangered sea turtle and a harbor seal are back in the sea.

Biologists at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation released Catwoman, a female harbor seal, and Namora, a Kemp's Ridley sea turtle, Wednesday night under Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays, foundation spokeswoman Rachel Bosworth said.

When the animals entered the water at about 7 p.m., more than 200 onlookers erupted into applause and cheers.

"It's great to see how excited people are," said Robert DiGiovanni, the foundation's executive director and senior biologist. "It was a little bit more unique to have a turtle and a seal going out."

Namora was found cold-stunned -- when the water temperature is too cold for the turtle to eat or swim -- in November 2014 in Southampton. Bosworth said the turtle's age is unclear.

Kemp's Ridley turtles are considered an endangered species. While adults prefer warmer waters, Long Island's shores are a prime habitat for maturing younger turtles, experts say.

Catwoman was found in January at Westhampton Beach with an eye infection, sealpox -- a virus similar to chickenpox -- and respiratory congestion. Bosworth said the seal is at least a year old.

DiGiovanni said biologists placed flipper tags on the animals so they can track them as they move into deeper waters.


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