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Alaska SeaLife Center




Phoca vitulina

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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.