Submitted by Wolf Hollow
After more than two months of care at Wolf Hollow, three harbor seal pups were returned to the wild on Thursday, Sept. 7. Wolf Hollow staff and interns, along with volunteers from the San Juan and Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Networks, board members and several excited supporters gathered to witness the release near Turn Point on San Juan Island.
The seals – two males and one female – were brought to Wolf Hollow earlier this summer from Whatcom and San Juan counties. Named Zebu, Jersey and Tauros by the staff, the seals arrived to the center just a few days old. They were underweight, dehydrated and in some cases suffering from serious infections and wounds. During their months in rehab, the seals received medical care and gained more than 30 pounds, thanks to a steady, nutrient-rich diet of formula, vitamins and eventually live fish. They learned to swim, dive, haul out on flat surfaces and forage for food until they were finally fit enough to venture back into the waters of the Salish Sea.
Once the transport carriers were opened on the beach, it took a few moments for the seals to emerge and inch toward the water. They cautiously explored their new, larger surroundings until they finally began to swim and dive further and further from the shore.
Wolf Hollow has treated harbor seal pups for more than 30 years, and is one of only two centers currently licensed in the state to rehabilitate them. The program was temporarily suspended in 2016 due to a lack of funding.
For decades, the local non-profit relied on support from the John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Grant. After Prescott funds were not awarded to them in the last two years, Wolf Hollow successfully sourced $42,000 in private funding to resume the program in 2017. These funds were contributed by a number of individual donors, the Orcas and San Juan Island Community Foundations, the San Juan Island Women’s Fund and the Lush USA Charitable Giving Program.
“It has been wonderful to see this program in action again. We’re so grateful to our generous donors and local non-profit partners for helping us provide a place for injured and orphaned seals to come for care this season,” said Amy Saxe-Eyler, executive director at Wolf Hollow. “These pups were in poor shape when they arrived, particularly Tauros, who was picked up after visitors on a beach in Blaine were taking selfies with him and handling him. After hundreds of hours of care by our staff, interns and volunteers, it’s an amazing feeling to see them swimming free again.”
Wolf Hollow has five seal pups still in care at the center. They are expected to fully recover and will be released within the next several weeks. To learn more about Wolf Hollow, visit wolfhollowwildlife.org.