Published on April 8th, 2010

Orphaned "Easter" seal pup delivered by Tununak hunter


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Most orphaned seals in Alaska are found on beaches or haulouts with no explanation for their stranding.

Maxwell, the first pup admitted to the Alaska SeaLife Center's rehabilitation facility this year, is a rare exception.

Staff members know exactly when this little harbor seal came into our world: At midday on Easter Sunday, April 4.

And he's still wearing his fuzzy, white, prenatal coat of hair.

Maxwell's mother was legally harvested by a subsistence hunter in the village of Tununak, located on Nelson Island in the Bering Sea.

After taking the adult seal, he realized there was a live pup inside and successfully delivered it. His daughter found the ASLC's Stranding Hotline number on the Internet and called to report the problem. With the ASLC's guidance, a village teacher then helped transport the young seal to the local airport. Era Aviation donated a flight to Bethel, and a connection to Anchorage was quickly arranged.

Alaska SeaLife Center veterinary staff met the pup at the Anchorage airport and transported him by truck to Seward on Monday, and then performed blood work to confirm his health status. While he has responded well to food and care, his condition is still considered critical.

"Maxwell was close to full term and everything looks fairly normal. But pups that have never received antibodies from their mother's milk are at higher risk for infection, so we will keep Maxwell in quarantine and monitor him closely for the next few weeks," said Dr. Pam Tuomi, a veterinarian at the Alaska SeaLife Center.

The center operates the only permanent facility in the state that is licensed to hold stranded marine mammals and seabirds for rehabilitation. Each year staff members choose a theme for naming animals admitted for treatment, and in 2010 the names will be related to caffeine-an important part of life for those who care for stranded animals 24 hours a day.

"We hope to give Maxwell a second chance at life as a wild harbor seal," said Brett Long, husbandry director at the Alaska SeaLife Center. "If it weren't for the care provided by the Tununak resident and his daughter-and the assistance of those who helped transport the pup to Seward-Maxwell would not have made it."

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