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Wounded seal pup found on Fire Island

A gray seal pup with infected wounds recuperates

A gray seal pup with infected wounds recuperates in a tank at The Riverhead Foundation. Credit: Courtesy of The Riverhead Foundation

A wounded gray seal pup was rescued Tuesday from Fire Island after being found on the boardwalk near a house, said The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

She had injuries on her back and fore flippers, and they were infected but did not appear to be man-made, said Rob DiGiovanni, the foundation's executive director and senior biologist.

Three feet long, the seal was also dehydrated and underweight at 40 pounds when she should have been 60, with a rounder, more robust torso, he said.

A concerned passerby first spotted the seal Monday afternoon in Cherry Grove and called the foundation, which sent a team Tuesday to transport the animal, with help from a Fire Island National Seashore ranger, the group's Facebook page said.

The mammal, less than a year old, is in one of the foundation's 16 seal tanks for what amounts to an "emergency hospital" visit that could last 6 to 8 weeks, depending on whether the antibiotics work, the senior biologist said.

"It needs to be bulked up," DiGiovanni said.

Despite the pup's growls to warn away humans, blood was taken, along with X-rays and ultrasound, and antibiotics given, DiGiovanni said.

The new arrival is one of four seals currently being cared for at the foundation. Each takes 1,500 to 2,000 personnel hours and $8,000 to $10,000 to get well, he said.

It was the second seal to be rescued in as many days by the foundation. On Monday, a team went to Rockaway Beach in Queens to bring in a yearling harp seal that was underweight and dehydrated.

Gray seals are native to this area, but the number of such strandings has grown from 10 years ago, when the population of gray seals had been decimated by people who considered them nuisances or who killed them for other reasons, DiGiovanni said.

The federal Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 barred the taking, harassment and killing of seals, dolphins, whales and all marine mammals from U.S. waters. That protected species whose numbers were quickly declining; it also helped the gray seal population rebound.

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