Help For Stranded Sick Seals

By Greg Cergol
|  Monday, Apr 12, 2010  |  Updated 6:30 PM EDT
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Marine rescuers in East Hampton knew only frustration last week; they could do little to help a beached whale dying in the surf.

But this is a new week with new challenges.

Two gray seals were discovered, ailing and alone, along beaches in East Hampton and Montauk this past weekend. One had suffered a broken jaw; the other, some cuts and bruises.  Each is under a year old.

Both were moved to a marine hospital at the Atlantis Aquarium in Riverhead and are now being treated along with about eleven other stranded deals.

"It's very common for seals to be stranded this time of year," said Rob DiGiovanni, director of the non-profit marine rescue group, the Riverhead Foundation.

The seal population is growing in the waters around Long Island, DiGiovanni explained. The sea is their playground but sometimes, the younger seals get roughed up.

"They're out there playing every day and sometimes encounter things that cause them harm," said DiGiovanni.

In all, the Riverhead Foundation treats an average 100 stranded seals each year. They are nursed back to health over six to eight weeks and then released back into the wild. One seal, named Lenny, is due to be returned to the sea later this week.

In the meantime, officials from the federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are reviewing whether rescue teams could have done a better job in their handling of the beached whale that was eventually euthanized.

East Hampton village police are also continuing their search for a tranquilizer dart that went missing in the surf during efforts to end the whale's life.  The dart is considered dangerous, although officials are unsure if it is still holding its dose of sedatives.

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