|Malnourished harbor seal pup upon admittance in March. Photo by TMMC.||Animal care crew members prepare to tube feed pups. Photo by TMMC.|
|A noticeably larger harbor seal who has began free feeding. Photo by TMMC.||A group of harbor seal pups awaiting their fish dinner. Photo by TMMC.|
Here at The Marine Mammal Center we're celebrating Mother's Day too, but in a different way! The Center is known for providing year-round care for sick and injured marine mammals, but every spring the Center takes on a new role: mother to the orphaned Harbor seal pups found along the California coast. With over 50 pups on site currently, this makes for a very busy time at the Center.
Arriving at TMMC, the harbor seal pups are typically malnourished from being weaned too early. This can happen when a mother abandons her pup, or when well-meaning citizens find a pup they believe to be abandoned and pick it up or move it. While a seal pup's best chance for survival is to remain with its mother, as mother's milk contains important antibodies that no substitute formula can provide, the Center is able to rehabilitate pups in need.
Upon admittance, the pups are put on a feeding regime; progressing from tube-feedings,to fish school, to free feeding. This week is a special time at the Center because many of the first pups admitted in February have gained significant weight and are now free feeding.
Pups are weighed twice a week. Once a pup attains a certain weight (40-50 pounds for harbor seal pups) and has been determined healthy by the veterinary staff, it will be considered for release. Many of the pups admitted in February and early March are making steady improvement, and may be candidates for release in the coming weeks.