On June 26, 2001 fishermen
in the town of Egegik Alaska observed a harbor seal pup
swimming under a seafood plant dock and attempting to climb
onto some of the boats. The fishermen contacted the Alaska
SeaLife Center's (ASLC) rehabilitation hotline. After observing
the pup for two days to ensure she was abandoned, arrangements
were made with PenAir to fly her to Anchorage.
Once in Anchorage, the pup was picked up by
ASLC rehabilitation staff. "Margarita," named
by Center staff members, was examined by Dr. Natalie Noll.
She was found to be slightly undernourished and there was
a slight tear in the cornea of her left eye. Margarita was
tube fed a substitute seal milk formula for the first few
weeks and received treatment for her eye. At four weeks
old, Margarita weaned very easily from formula to fish.
Once she was eating fish on her own without assistance,
she was placed in a pool with another harbor seal. This
allowed both seals to practice their foraging skills.
Margarita continued to forage well for her
food, and she reached an adequate weight for release by
late August. Prior to release, Margarita was given a physical
exam and then tagged in two places. A flipper tag was attached
to her right hind flipper with an ID number and ASLC contact
information, and a satellite telemetry device was attached
to her back. The satellite tag is used to monitor dive time,
depth and the location of the animal. Satellite telemetry
provides research and education staff a better understanding
of how well seals may do once released from a rehabilitation
facility. On September 1, 2001, Margarita was transported
to Northwestern Glacier in the Alaska Maritime Wildlife
Refuge with the assistance of Kenai Fjords Tours. Once in
the icy waters of the fjord, Margarita would not swim away
from the boat. The staff and crew gave her a few minutes
to acclimate to her new surroundings. As soon as she moved
far enough away from the boat, the engines were started.
Margarita followed the boat for a short distance, and then
dove into her natural environment.