BERLIN – While the deceased whale that washed up on the beach in Ocean City last Saturday afternoon was met with sorrow, another marine mammal stranding with an unusual twist a day later had a happy ending.
Around 9 p.m. on Sunday, Worcester County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a rather unusual call about a live seal on the side of Big Mill Pond Rd. near Stockton in the southern end of Worcester County several miles from the ocean. The seal had made its way from the ocean into the Chincoteague Bay and somehow made it up through a creek or stream and ended up stranded on the side of the road.
“The seal was a sub-adult male harp seal that traveled well out of his normal habitat, somehow crossed a dam and navigated through a flooded swamp to get to his final resting place,” said Jennifer Bloomer, media relations director for the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
Bloomer said the seal’s long trek was likely made possible by the extreme high tides and flooding associated with the coastal low that pounded the region last weekend. Although the discovery of a seal on the side of a country road miles from the ocean was certainly unusual to say the least, similar strandings occur at times of extreme high tides and flooding.
“It’s not uncommon to get a string of strandings when we have a storm roll through, especially one that lasts for several days,” said Bloomer. “There appears to be no other correlation.”
The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office contacted the National Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) around 9 p.m. on Sunday to report the stranding and MARP coordinator Jen Dittmar and a handful of MARP volunteers arrived on the scene around 7:30 a.m. on Monday. In the meantime, Sheriff’s deputies closed the road and stayed with the seal to ensure its safety until the MARP volunteers arrived.
Early Monday morning, Dittmar and MARP volunteers were able to secure the seal in a cage and transport it to the beach on Assateague where it was successfully released back into the ocean, apparently none the worse for wear save a splash of orange paint on its tail section so aquarium officials could monitor its location.
“We are currently watching the animal, which reappeared elsewhere,” said Bloomer this week. “The seal appeared to be healthy and in fair body condition. He was a little thin, but okay to be released back into the water.”