My friend from school was visiting me on her way back to Canada from an external in New York, so naturally, we did the tourist thing and saw the sites in the area of Maine where I’m from. This brought us to a local beach where we thought we’d enjoy a nice, relaxing beach day. We packed up a cooler with lunch, threw some sunscreen and a towel in a bag, and headed to the warm sand and cool Maine waters!
After catching some rays and hanging out for a bit, we decided to go for a walk, where we explored tide pools, climbed some rocks, and enjoyed the beach. On our way down, we passed a girl reading a book with her little dog–a nice way to spend a day. However, on our way back, I noticed a new addition to her little nook in some rocks. A small, juvenile seal was lying next to her, and she had been so wrapped up in her book she didn’t notice! Leave it to the little guy to wind up on a beach where two vet students are on vacation. As the three of us stared at this seal which had seemingly appeared out of nowhere, we noticed that the seal was having a hard time moving, was trying to stay out of the water, and had many small wounds all over his body. He had obviously been through a rough patch–whether that was a shark attack or a tumble in the motor of a boat, we’re not sure, but he was definitely hurting. We alerted the park officials that we had found an injured seal, so they called a marine rescue to come get him.
In the meantime, we were assigned the duty of watching the seal and making sure nobody came near him. Seals are protected in the state of Maine, and we certainly didn’t want any unruly tourists trying to take selfies with this poor wild animal. His day was already stressful enough! Unfortunately, this rule also meant that we weren’t allowed to touch him. After waiting for two hours for the rescue to show up, the tide had finally come in so high that he didn’t have any more sand to escape to, just rocks, and he was forced to swim back into the ocean. He cried as he swam away and it broke our hearts to not be able to do anything as two vet students. Ironically, the rescue of course showed up five minutes later wondering where the seal was. I’m really hoping he makes it out in the wild, but an injured little guy away from his mom probably didn’t have the best chance.
As vets, we want to help every animal, even if it means spending our beach days babysitting seals. That being said, we also have to know our boundaries, and trying to help an injured wild animal (that is illegal to touch) without proper equipment is not a safe thing to do. I’m sending my wishes to the little dude!