KENAI — An elephant seal was successfully released by the Alaska SeaLife Center at the end of March after being admitted to the center’s Wildlife Response Program about a week earlier. The seal, a 1-year-old female, was found on the main boat ramp of the Seward Boat Harbor on March 19 and moved to the SeaLife Center on March 21, according to a center release. The seal was also the first mammal admitted to the program this year.
The SeaLife Center has only responded to 13 elephant seals since it opened in 1998. It’s unusual, the center said, for elephant seals to travel into Resurrection Bay, as they tend to spend summers in the Gulf of Alaska and in the Aleutians. The center determined intervention was necessary after receiving multiple calls about the seal, which was moved to the center by the Wildlife Response Team, with help from the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Upon arrival at the center, the seal was found to be bloated and lethargic, in addition to going through its annual catastrophic molt, as part of which it sheds hair and parts of skin. The bloating subsided quickly, the center said, and blood and fecal analyses cam back with “no concerning results.”
“Because of this molt, they can look and sound sickly compared to your typical harbor seal,” ASLC Wildlife Response Curator Jane Belovarac said in a news release from the center. “Elephant seals will have superficial wounds over their body because they don’t just lose their hair, they shed the underlying layer of skin when they molt.”
The 320-pound elephant seal was successfully released back into the wild on March 24 by the center’s Wildlife Response Team. The seal was released at Lowell Point, near downtown Seward.
“She easily went into the water and headed toward the open ocean,” the center’s release says. “Since then, we have not had any more sightings.”
More information about the Wildlife Response Program and about the elephant seal can be found on the center’s website at alaskasealife.org.