BALTIMORE — On Friday, April 23, harp seal Stuart Little was released back into his natural habitat at Assateague State Park. Stuart Little was rescued from Ocean City, Maryland after being observed eating sand on the beach. He arrived at the National Aquarium’s Animal Care and Rescue Center on March 2 with assistance from Ocean City Beach Patrol and Ocean City Police.
Initially upon arrival, Stuart was treated with fluids and later for several parasitic infections, which are common in harp seals. During his time at the Aquarium, unlike his namesake, Stuart Little became not so little, and is now weighing in at 70 pounds and measuring 48 inches in length. He is also a voracious eater, often consuming his entire meal underwater before coming up for a breath of air.
“Harp seals are considered ice seals, which means they typically spend most of their time on ice floes or in areas with plenty of ice covering,” said Director of National Aquarium Animal Rescue Jennifer Dittmar. “Therefore, it’s no surprise that Stuart’s favorite enrichment activity was eating and rolling around in ice.”
Although Stuart had made quite a name for himself as the second seal patient of the season, it’s time to bid him adieu. As E.B. White wrote it best, “But the sky was bright, and he somehow felt he was headed in the right direction.”
The National Aquarium also recently admitted its third seal patient, a juvenile grey seal nicknamed Tom Sawyer, rescued from Delaware in coordination with Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation. Tom Sawyer is currently in critical condition and being treated for several ailments including bite wounds and a parasitic respiratory infection by Animal Health and Rescue teams.
The National Aquarium’s Animal Rescue program is responsible for responding to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles along the nearly 3,190 miles of Maryland coast and works with stranding partners through the Greater Atlantic Region Stranding Network to help respond, rescue and release animals year-round.