Andre the harbor seal was released back into the wild Wednesday afternoon on the beach at Fort Flagler State Park after being rehabilitated by the Sealife Response, Rehabilitation & Research (SR3) team. Patrick Hutchins, community engagement coordinator for SR3, and Holly Weinstein, marine stewardship educator and AmeriCorps member for the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, helped guide Andre into the water. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)

Andre the harbor seal was released back into the wild Wednesday afternoon on the beach at Fort Flagler State Park after being rehabilitated by the Sealife Response, Rehabilitation & Research (SR3) team. Patrick Hutchins, community engagement coordinator for SR3, and Holly Weinstein, marine stewardship educator and AmeriCorps member for the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, helped guide Andre into the water. (Zach Jablonski/Peninsula Daily News)

Rehabilitated harbor seal returned to the sea

Injured, emaciated pup healed before Fort Flagler release

MARROWSTONE ISLAND — The harbor seal pup had been found injured and emaciated on the beach at Beckett Point in July. On Wednesday, the rehabilitated seal, dubbed Andre, was released back into the sea from Fort Flagler State Park.

A crowd of about 50 people watched Andre crawl across the sand and back into the water. Among them were officials with Sealife Response, Rehabilitation & Research (SR3) of Des Moines, Wash., which oversaw his recovery and rehabilitation, and the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, which helped him when he was found injured in July.

The Marine Science Center and SR3 are members of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network, which is comprised of organizations focused on assisting stranded marine animals.

A resident of Beckett Point told the Marine Science Center about an injured seal pup found on the beach in mid-July and the center’s officials asked SR³ for assistance and to care for him, said Holly Weinstein, marine science educator and AmeriCorps service member.

Andre was only a few days old when he was found at the beach emaciated, scored with bite marks from an unknown animal, with a broken toe and a slight eye injury, said Casey Mclean, executive director and veterinarian nurse for SR³.

Andre was given nutritious food, supplemental heat and treatment for the bite injuries and emaciation. He also had to have surgery to have some of the bone removed from the broken toe.

Antibiotic beads were implanted to promote healing, Mclean said.

Andre’s mother is believed to have abandoned him due to human interference, Mclean said.

“Most of these animals that are abandoned by mom are because of human disturbance, people getting too close to the pup, or their pets, like dogs,” Mclean said.

“Adult harbor seals are very skittish, so if there’s anything around, they won’t come back.”

This release was the first one conducted by SR3 in Jefferson County and the 38th since the start of the year.

However, the majority of those have occurred since April, when the organization opened the first marine wildlife hospital in the Pacific Northwest, Mclean said.

“Having this many and in this short amount of time really shows the need for a facility like ours,” Mclean said.

The Marine Science Center team kept in touch with SR3 about Andre’s recovery.

Weinstein said she was excited about being able to assist with his release after Andre was successfully rehabilitated.

“I got a little choked up there,” she said. “It was really good feeling.

“It was a wonderful process to see him go back to where he’s supposed to be.”

Mclean was a little emotional, too.

“This is why we do what we do,” Mclean said. “The whole point of this is to return them to the ocean and have them be a healthy part of the population.”

Andre does not have a satellite tracking tag attached, but he does have a green dot on his head which identified him at the hospital — and which will disappear when he molts — as well as an identification tag attached to his rear flipper webbing.

If he is found again, officials will be able to identify him and know he’s been treated before, Mclean said.

________

Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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