BALTIMORE — A juvenile harp seal that was rescued from Ocean City, on March 2, is currently being cared for at the National Aquarium’s Animal Care and Rescue Center.
The Aquarium’s second seal patient of 2021 is nicknamed after the character in the 1945 children’s book written by E. B. White, Stuart Little. While E. B. White’s Stuart Little was only about 2 inches high with a mouse’s sharp nose, a mouse’s tail and a mouse’s whiskers, this Stuart Little is 43 inches long, weighs 48 pounds and looks very much like a seal in every way.
Before being rescued, Stuart Little was observed eating sand on the beach. When a harp seal is observed eating sand or rocks, it’s important to act quickly because it’s a sign the animal is stressed and likely dehydrated. Also, sand and rocks can cause major damage to the seal’s digestive system.
“Harp seals typically eat ice for hydration during periods when they don’t have access to food,” explains Director of National Aquarium Animal Rescue Jennifer Dittmar. “When they move south into areas where there isn’t ice, they maintain this behavior and can eat whatever is around them—often sand and rocks. This behavior can also be a stress response.”
Upon arrival at the National Aquarium, Stuart was treated with fluids to hydrate him and to flush the sand out of his system. The team took radiographs of his abdomen to check for rocks. Fortunately, they did not see any. He does, however, require treatment for intestinal parasites.
He now has full-time pool access and has started eating about ten pounds of fish a day.