Even during a global pandemic, animals are still being rescued along the Jersey Shore. And that includes two seals who spent some time in Brigantine.
Monday, two seals from Brigantine’s Marine Mammal Stranding Center were released from Sandy Hook Park in North Jersey's Gateway National Recreation Area.
One was a 300-pound male harp seal and the other was a female grey seal pup.
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The harp seal was rescued around two months ago, said MMSC Founding Director Bob Schoelkopf. He was “ready to go” this week -- and the rescue was ready for the tank space, because male seals can't be placed together. Fights may ensue.
The female grey seal pup was only in the facility for about 48 hours and was a “relocation” from neighboring Longport in South Jersey.
Seals travel almost 1,500 miles from the Arctic to reach the New Jersey coast. It's a dangerous journey, and some become stranded.
Seals Released Into Waters Off the Jersey Shore
So far, in March and April, MMSC has taken over two hundred calls for stranded animals, and they have encountered at least six adult seals in New Jersey alone, which Schoelkopf said was “unusual."
Even though beaches are closed in New Jersey due to the pandemic, some people are ignoring the order, which makes rescuing marine mammals a lot more difficult, Schoelkopf said.
“People that encounter these animals don’t know what they’re doing, and it's quite possible the animal doesn’t have a chance to relocate," he said.
During the global pandemic, the MMSC has been affected financially. It is a non-profit that heavily relies on donations.
Staff members are taking the necessary precautions, including wearing masks and limiting personnel who interact with one another. But they are still picking up animals and doing their job across the state.
Currently at the center, there are five marine mammals; it has held twenty-five at once. Since the 1980s, the center has rescued over 450 animals.
To report a stranding, call the MMSC hotline at 609-266-0538. Schoelkopf emphasizes to please call, instead of trying to take care of the animal yourself.