Wayward seal barking up the wrong river

By DANIELLE DROLET Gazette Staff Writer


MIDDLEBORO - Mother Nature just might have pulled an early April Fools joke on Bristol County.

(Seal took a stroll out of the Narragansett, a Major Trib of the Taunton River)


Yesterday at 5:40 a.m., 21-year-old Amy Kelble waited for a ride to work in the driveway of her 39 Cross St. home.
Suddenly, there was a rustle in the bushes and two "big bug eyes" stared up at her, New England Aquarium spokesperson Tony LaCasse said in a phone interview.

The "big bug eyes" belonged to a 32-pound juvenile male harp seal, he said. "Harp seals are native to the Canadian Arctic," LaCasse said.
Middleboro police received a call from the Kelble residence that there was a seal on Cross Street. The police contacted officials of the New England Aquarium.

Alex Kelble, 11, said he - along with his brothers, Joseph 13, and Dana, 9 -ran outside to see what their sister had found.
"We ran into the house like 90 miles an hour and told our mom. She thought we were playing an April Fools joke," said Joseph. "He was about 2-feet long," added Alex. "He had some fur on his side... He was yawning a lot."
LaCasse said the low weight of the seal put into question whether he was born in the area or not. The "runt-sized" seal, he said, could be approximately a year old. "He's undersized for his age," said LaCasse. "There are remote chances that he was born down here. Generally their habitat is in Canada. The pregnant ones stay up north." Generally, he said that a seal nurses her young for 12 days and then "lets them loose."

"It's a harsh introduction into the world," LaCasse said. This might not even be the first time the public has spotted the seal in the area. On Saturday, there was a report of a harp seal in the Bridgewater area. "There is a possibility [it could be the same seal] ... Two harp seals in the area would be unusual," LaCasse said. The aquarium dispatched a team of scientists and volunteers, including marine biologist Belinda Rubinstein of Bourne.

The biologist added into the picture another point of irony, LaCasse remarked. "[Rubenstein's] parents live on that street," said LaCasse. "So we moved the seal to her parents' home and conducted an extensive medical examination."
The medical examination, he said, included drawing blood for a DNA sample to determine just where in the Canadian province the "little guy" came from and a fecal sample to see what he had eaten.

The "little guy" is now enroute to the University of New England, Biddeford M.E. Afterwhich for a short rehabilitative stay. LaCasse said he will be set free in either Southern Maine or Nova Scotia. LaCasse said often it's the younger animals that somehow end up where they wouldn't normally be found. Harp seals, in particular, he said, are generally winter time visitors to New England.

"They're young enough not to know better," he said.

ŠThe Taunton Gazette 2005