A seal pup returned to the ocean Friday morning after it was found alongside a road in Ellsworth.
Maine Marine Patrol responded to Bayside Road, which is also Route 230, after getting a call Friday morning that the seal was near Spindle Road. According to a report in the Ellsworth American weekly newspaper, the local police department also responded to help the seal, which is believed to weigh between 20 and 25 pounds.
Sgt. Troy Dow of the Marine Patrol said the seal appeared to be in good health. Heavy rains on Thursday may have raised water levels in a nearby brook, Dow said, which the seal could have used to make its way to the road. The road runs parallel to the shore of Union River Bay, a few hundred feet to the east.
“It looked fat and healthy,” Dow said. “It could move around fine.”
Lindsey Jones of the Allied Whale marine mammal laboratory at the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor said Friday that the seal is a gray seal weanling, meaning it has been weaned from its mother and is eating on its own. Gray seals are born in the winter, whereas harbor seals, which tend to be smaller, are born in the spring.
“The high wind and sea conditions [Thursday] could have contributed to why the seal ventured farther from the ocean,” Jones said. “Newly weaned seal pups are still figuring out where to go to rest and find food so sometimes they wind up in unusual locations.”
She said Allied Whale will monitor the area to make sure the seal does not become stranded again.
All seals are protected under federal law by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Anyone who sees a stranded seal should stay at least 150 feet away and should notify authorities, Jones said. Seal pups can be abandoned by their mothers if humans get too close, and an outbreak of flu and distemper has killed hundreds of seals along the New England coast since last summer.
Stranded seals can be reported by calling the Maine Marine Mammal reporting hotline at 800-532-9551. If the seal is found east of Rockland, Allied Whale can be contacted directly at 207-288-5644 or 207-266-1326.
Dow said that after getting the OK from Allied Whale to move the seal on Friday, Marine Patrol Specialist Sean Dow put it in a tote and drove it to the seaplane ramp at Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport in Trenton. He and Troy Dow put it in on the beach by the ramp, where after a while it swam away.
“It just hung out at the ramp for 35 to 45 minutes,” Troy Dow said. “It didn’t seem to have any physical injuries.”