Walkabout Seal Pup Is Doing Fine

Bud Pitts, who noticed a young gray seal alongside an Amagansett road, helped keep it from scrambling away while waiting for a marine mammal team to arrive. T.E. McMorrow

A seal pup that was rescued after it was discovered on an Amagansett roadside on Tuesday afternoon is in good health.

The seal almost surely came from Gardiner’s Bay, some 150 yards distant. How it got to the middle of Bendigo Road is not known, though it appeared to have waddled up a long driveway from a waterfront house. Bud Pitts of Amagansett was driving west on Bendigo Road, saw it in the middle of the road, and thought someone had hit a dog. Another vehicle had stopped, as well.

But what the drivers took at first to be a dead dog turned out to be a very live seal. Dell Cullum of Hampton Wildlife Removal and Rescue was called, as were the police. Both were on the scene in minutes. Mr. Cullum immediately contacted the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

Marine mammals are quite different from land mammals, the rescue of which Mr. Cullum specializes in. As he described the young seal over the phone, Sgt. Dan Roman and Mr. Pitts, using a board from the latter’s truck, began an operation they would continue for the next hour: guiding the seal away from the roadway, and keeping it safe until help arrived.

Over that time period, the seal, a little over two feet long, would intermittently bark, snap, and do its best to get away. The sun was setting, and the temperature was dropping. By the time the foundation’s truck arrived, it was dark. Kristina Hansen examined the animal. It was a young gray seal, she said, slightly underweight. “He’s a couple of months old,” she said aloud. “Face looks good. No visible wounds.”


Video by T.E. McMorrow

The problem she was facing, along with a volunteer from the foundation, Ashley Longo, was . . . what now? The preferred procedure for what appear to be healthy seals is to guide them back to the water. In the dark, with the water’s edge at least 150 yards away, that was not a practical solution. Ms. Hansen, whose job title is given on the foundation’s website as stranding technician, called her supervisor.

It was decided that, since she would have to place the seal in a cage, anyway, to get it to the water, it would be best to take it to Riverhead, give it a good meal and a thorough checkup, then release it back into the wild. Mr. Cullum, Sergeant Roman, and Mr. Pitts held the cage as Ms. Hansen captured the seal in a blanket, holding it up to allow the men to bring the cage toward the frightened animal. The cage was soon secured to the back of the truck. Ms. Hansen expressed optimism about the seal’s future. “He’s very vocal. Very mobile.” And off they went.

“He is doing well,” Charles Bowman, the president of the Riverhead Foundation, said yesterday of his young charge. “He’s about a month old.” Gray seals leave their mothers at about that age and can become disoriented, he said, offering the most likely explanation for the pup’s odyssey, “he just headed in the wrong direction.”
 

Kristina Hansen of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation made the decision to take the seal to the foundation’s headquarters, where it could be monitored before being released back into the wild.T.E. McMorrow