By Scott Rasmussen, Journal editor
Two of the four showed no hesitation at all.
They dove directly into the waters of San Juan Island’s Shipyard Harbor and zipped across the calm, cool, shallow bay like they were headed for home. The other two? Not so much.
Four once-ailing and now rejuvenated pups were released back into the wild by Wolf Hollow Rehabilitation Center, Saturday, and the event proved an intriguing reminder that not even all Harbor seals are created equal.
“I think basically what you’re seeing is a bit of confusion on their part,” Wolf Hollow education coordinator Shona Aitken said of the two more seemingly timid pups. “The saltwater and location might seem really foreign and they’re saying ‘I’m sticking with you.”
Still, Merlin and Remy – all four pups were named after Disney movie characters – appeared to gain confidence in their new surroundings and after 20 minutes or so slowly ventured out together into the bay, following the lead of Eema and Kovu before them. With their departure, Wolf Hollow successfully rehabilitated and released all ten seal pups it treated in 2012.
The last four were all just days old when they were recovered by the San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network in late July. Three were in poor health, underweight, dehydrated and weak, when their convalescence at Wolf Hollow began.
All four were found on local beaches, two on Lopez and one each on Orcas and San Juan, and apparently abandoned. Each gained more than 40 pounds during two months of rehab and, once they were strong enough to dive, were repeatedly given the all-important practice of hunting live prey in the confines of the wildlife rehab center’s diving pool.
“They have the instinct to chase but they get a little confused what to do once they catch a live fish,” Aitken said. “They just need a little practice.”
Along with their Disney names, Eema, Kovu, Merlin and Remy were outfitted with colorful caps, modestly sized, for identification and for tracking their movements, at least temporarily. The caps are attached to the pups’ head with a strong adhesive. Aitken said the caps are an experiment this year in tracking and less costly than global-positioning-satellite tags.
For more on Wolf Hollow, visit, http://wolfhollowwildlife.org/