National Marine Life Center Postpones Seal Releases Following Die-Offs

BUZZARDS BAY – The mortality rate of seals along the New England coast due to infectious diseases has caused the National Marine Life Center to delay the release of two seal pups the agency rescued earlier this summer.

“This die-off, or mortality event, an unusual mortality event, they hypothesis at this point is that it’s being attributed to two infectious diseases that are occurring in the wildlife population,” said Executive Director Kathy Zagzebski.

“One is Avian Flu or Influenza and the second Seal Distemper virus. We just didn’t want to release animals that just had recovered into an area where they might be quickly in danger of a wild outbreak.”

The two seal pups, Androscoggin, a male pup found stranded off the coast of Maine, and Piscatqua, found off the coast of Rye, New Hampshire, were both treated for dehydration, malnourishment, tongue ulcers, low blood sodium, and nasal discharge, among other ailments.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said both the influenza and distemperment virus is spread through direct contact between animals, including between a mother and her pups.

The illnesses can also be absorbed through the inhalation of respiratory particles, as well as through the eyes, mouth, stomach, and skin wounds, according to NOAA.

Avian Flu and the Distemper Virus have laid the base for a deadly summer for seals this year, also according to a report from NOAA.

“They’re now fully recovered and ready to go back to the wild. We had planned to release them last week, however we decided to postpone the release due to the die-off occurring in the population right now,” Zagzebski said.

Zagzebski says the pups will remain at the center until further notice. She says there is certainly no rush to bring them back to the wild based on the die-off occurring off the shores right now.

By TIM DUNN, CapeCod.com News Center

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