Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation (MERR) responded to a gray seal pup on
the bayside of the Point at Cape Henlopen State Park on Tuesday, May 12. The seal was
entangled in gill netting, which was wrapped tightly around its neck. Although it could
still breathe, the line of the netting was cutting deeply into the neck, splaying open the
skin to cause a 4-inch-wide, raw wound. The group believes it was the same entangled
seal that had been reported on Sunday May 10, but it swam away before it could be
The seal had hauled out within the plover nesting area at Cape Henlopen, and was very
fortunate that the plover biologists discovered him, reporting him to MERR. Because the seal was located in this sensitive area, a small group of MERR’s stranding responders was escorted into the area on foot by the plover biologists with DNREC, helping to keep the seal and plovers safe.
This young seal, named Haven by the staff at Haven Lake Animal Hospital where MERR’s veterinarian practices, weighs about 45-50 lbs. and is believed to be approximately 2 1/2 months old. If the seal had not been rescued and disentangled, the net would have become increasingly tighter around his neck as he grew, causing infection, slow starvation, and probable strangulation.
The seal showed immediate signs of improvement after the netting was removed. The
wound was cleaned and he received life-saving fluids and antibiotics. The seal was
transported to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, NJ for rehabilitation
early Wednesday morning.
Special thanks go out to MERR volunteers, the plover biologists, and MERR’s
veterinarian Dr. Dee Holm and the staff at Haven Lake Animal Hospital in Milford.
If anyone views a stranded seal, marine mammal or sea turtle on local beaches, they are urged to call MERR’s 24-hour response line 302.228.5029.