Owain Johnston-Barnes (The Royal Gazette) reports on an Atlantic seal that made its way to Bermuda waters. The Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo will try to help the animal regain its weight and strength in order to return it to its natural habitat.
A grey seal — the first of its species found in Bermuda — was rescued after it was discovered by a fisherman near Tobacco Bay, St George’s this morning.
Patrick Talbot, curator at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, said: “It’s extremely rare. We really don’t have the food sources to feed an animal like this. “They feed a lot of soft-boned fish like herring. These animals are found off the eastern seaboard of the United States and Europe, in pretty cold water.” He added that BAMZ hope to help the animal regain its weight and, hopefully, return it to its natural habitat.
Mr Talbot said the aquarium were called about the seal after it was found in a small ravine not far from Tobacco Bay. He said: “We blocked off its access to the water with barriers and we have a seal carrier created for our seals. This seal is a little larger than our seals, but it was large enough to support her. We got the carrier down, corralled her in. She was quite co-operative. We then had to lift her out of the ravine and onto our truck. Luckily there were members of the public there who were able to assist.”
Mr Talbot explained that grey seals are larger than the harbour seals usually kept at the aquarium. He said: “It is slightly underweight. They are usually around 300lbs or so, certainly a lot larger than a male harbour seal, which grow up to 225lbs, 250lbs.They also eat a lot more fish than a harbour seal would. They have a pronounced, elongated face, which distinguishes them from a harbour seal.”
Mr Talbot said the seal’s discovery excited members of the public — but she won’t be put on display. He explained: “There was stuff online before we got back to the aquarium. It is a very popular story. Unfortunately, this animal is in quarantine, so there will be restricted access to it. Even staff here will have restricted access to it. It is a wild animal, and we have no idea if this animal has any diseases or anything like that. We do have seals here and other mammals, and we wouldn’t want our animals to be compromised.”
Mr Talbot also cautioned the public against approaching wild animals like seals if they are found in the wild. He said: “You should always approach a wild animal with caution. This animal though has probably endured a lot of hardship, so it was fairly easy for us to coral, capture and bring back. If anyone finds a wild animal that appears to be sick, give us a call at 293-2727. It is nice to know where the location is and what the animal is to help us because we are not going to take a bucket to pick up a seal.”
Grey seals, also known as Atlantic seals, are common in the North Atlantic, but Ian Walker, principal curator at BAMZ said they had not been seen in Bermuda before. Stranded harbour seals have occasionally made their way to the island, but the exhausted animals have often not survived.
[Photo: This unrelated photo of a grey seal is from https://a-z-animals.com/animals/grey-seal/.]