Sick seal pup gaining strength Was found stranded at Virginia Beach

January 16, 1991|By Frank D. Roylance | Frank D. Roylance,Evening Sun Staff

A very sick harbor seal pup that was found stranded on a Virginia beach two weeks ago is said to be gaining strength at the National Aquarium in Baltimore.

"He's actually beginning to be almost difficult to handle," said Cheryl Messinger, one of the animal-care specialists working with the seal. "He'll growl and try to bite. . . . He's getting back to almost his wild nature. It's good to see."

Even so, she said, the 7-month-old pup remains weak, stunted at just 38 pounds, and still suffers from lungworm, blood poisoning and pneumonia.

"He's still not out of the woods and has many hurdles to overcome before he's healthy," Messinger said. "The pneumonia and lungworm will take a long time to heal."

Still, she said, "we're really excited he's come this far. He seems to be quite a fighter."

The pup, who has not been named, washed up in Virginia Beach Jan. 2, and was brought to Baltimore two days later in guarded condition. He has since been treated with fluids and antibiotics, and has been fed mostly a thin fish gruel administered through a stomach tube.

"I can tell you he is much stronger than he had been," Messinger said. "He's very bright and alert, and when people come in he sits up and looks around. When they are very ill, they lie very still and allow you to manipulate them. He's fighting back; it's good to see."

Mostly, though, the seal lies on the deck of his blue plastic kiddie pool and sleeps.

The seal weighs 38 pounds, the same weight he had on arrival 12 days ago, and perhaps half the normal weight for a seal his age.

Veterinarians want the pup to gain weight before he is started on medication to treat another problem -- lungworm. The treatment is quite rigorous.

"He already has trouble breathing, and any more compromise on his lungs could be very dangerous," Messinger said.

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