Wolf Hollow released last 2023 seal pup Juniper

Four Harbor seals were released by Wolf Hollow in October, but that was not the last of their summer babies. Juniper took her sweet time putting on enough weight.

“Every seal is different,” the non-profit’s Executive Director Chandra Stone explained. “Some seals are just smarter than others or heal slower. Juniper wasn’t eating unless they were hand-feeding her with grabbers through a slit.”

It should be clarified that staff takes extra precautions to ensure wildlife they are treating does not become dependent on humans, so hand fed does not mean by hand, but rather by taking fish with a tong, inserting it through a slit in a barrier that prevents the animal from connecting the food to humans.

When Juniper was found on Lopez at the end of July, she was only approximately seven days old. At only 13.7 pounds, she was emaciated, lethargic, dehydrated and cold with several small wounds.

Initial treatment consisted of warming Juniper with a heat lamp and giving her warm fluids to rehydrate and raise her body temperature. Gradually she was introduced to seal formula.

After a few days, she had put on a couple of pounds but Juniper continued to become shivery during baths so her swims were kept short. Her eyes were goopy and crusty, so an ointment was administered.

A week later, Juniper put on another pound. She was given her first fish, but she wasn’t a fan of swallowing it.

By her third week at Wolf Hollow Juniper was swimming in the pool, had put on more weight and was on a solid fish diet. Staff reported she was now swallowing the fish well.

At the end of August she was eating fish under water, however, she still needed assistance. Over the month of September Juniper continued to slowly gain weight. She still needed assistance with food, and even in October she would shred the fish at the bottom of the pool rather than eat them. It was not until Nov. 9 she was finally eating on her own. Now she just needed to gain a bit more weight. Stone said they look for a minimum weight of 45 pounds. At the end of November, Juniper tipped the scales at 45.8 pounds, big enough to be released.

On Dec. 7, staff carried her to a release point. Her cage was opened, and Juniper galumped her way to the sea and began a new chapter in her life.

“It was kind of late being in December, I’m glad we didn’t have a hard freeze,” Stone noted. “We had a late season. These all came to us at the end of July.”

Early July is more typical, Stone continued, although they have received pups as early as May. Every seal and every season is different.

The crowd witnessing her swimming toward her new life was smaller and calmer than in October, according to Stone., yet Juniper’s release marks another successful seal rehabilitation by the staff and veterinarians at Wolf Hollow.

A documentary about Wolf Hollow’s seal rehabilitation program, “Pups” was featured at the Friday Harbor Film Festival in October and will be in a Florida film festival this January.

To learn more about all the animals Wolf Hollow treats, as well as their educational programs, visit https://wolfhollowwildlife.org.

Contributed photo
Juniper swims free.
Contributed photo
Juniper swims free.

Contributed photo Juniper swims free. Contributed photo Juniper swims free.