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Seal discovered ashore at East End

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Safe and sound: Patrick Talbot, the curator of the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, and Roma Hayward, the BAMZ Animal Care and Quarantine Officer, look at the stray grey seal found on Catherine Rocks, between Tobacco Bay and Catherine Point, St George’s, yesterday morning. BAMZ staff were called to the scene by a fisherman and parks department workmen, who also helped lift the seal, which weighed about 300 pounds, from the seashore and into a truck(Photograph by Akil Simmons)

A grey seal — the first of its kind found in Bermuda — was rescued yesterday after it was spotted by a fisherman.

Patrick Talbot, curator at the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, said: “It’s extremely rare.

“We really don’t have the food sources to feed an animal like this. “They feed a lot on soft-boned fish like herring. These animals are found off the eastern seaboard of the United States and Europe in pretty cold water.”

He added that BAMZ hoped to help the exhausted and underweight female seal, found at Catherine Rock, near Tobacco Bay, St George’s, to regain its proper weight and return it to its natural habitat.

Mr Talbot said the aquarium was called about the animal after it was found in a small ravine.

Grey seals, also known as Atlantic or horsehead seals, are common on the coastlines of the northern North Atlantic.

Ian Walker, principal curator at BAMZ, said harbour seals, like the popular attractions BAMZ has in its collection, have sometimes made their way to the island, but the exhausted animals have often not survived.

Dr Walker said the grey seal could have been brought to the island by bad weather, but changes in the currents of the Gulf Stream could also be responsible for seals being swept off course.

The animal has a laceration to its left rear flipper.

Dr Walker said he was unsure of the cause, but the injury was up to a week old. The seal also had multiple small punctures around its body, probably caused by the rocks and reefs of Bermuda.

He said: “We blocked off its access to the water with barriers and we have a seal carrier created for our harbour seals.

“This seal is a little larger than our seals, but it was large enough to support her.

“We got the carrier down and corralled her in. She was quite co-operative.

“We then had to lift her out of the ravine and on to our truck. Luckily there were members of the public there who were able to assist.”

Mr Talbot explained that grey seals are larger than the harbour seals kept at the aquarium.

He said: “It is slightly underweight. They are usually around 300 pounds or so, certainly a lot larger than a male harbour seal, which grow up to 225 pounds or 250 pounds.

“They also eat a lot more fish than a harbour seal would. They have a pronounced, elongated face, which distinguishes them from a harbour seal.”

Mr Talbot said the seal’s discovery had sparked interest among members of the public, but added it would not be put on display.

He explained: “There was stuff online before we got back to the aquarium. It is a very popular story.”

Mr Talbot said: “Unfortunately this animal is in quarantine, so there will be restricted access to it. Even staff here will have restricted access to it.

“It is a wild animal, and we have no idea if this animal has any diseases or anything like that.

“We do have seals here and other mammals, and we wouldn’t want our animals to be compromised.”

Mr Talbot also warned that the public should not approach animals like seals if they are found in the wild.

He said: “You should always approach a wild animal with caution. This animal, though, has probably endured a lot of hardship, so it was fairly easy for us to corral, capture and bring back.”

He added that anyone who spotted a wild animal that appeared to be sick, they should contact BAMZ at 293-2727 with full details.

Mr Talbot said: “It is nice to know where the location is and what the animal is to help us because we are not going to take a bucket to pick up a seal.”

Dr Walker said he had also heard about another video on social media which showed an injured bat found on the island.

He added “There is a local population, typically fairly small bats.

“We do have them; they are here and people bring them in, not infrequently.

“Rabies is not much of a concern here, but of course whenever you are dealing with a wild animal you have no idea what they have.

“We would recommend using gloves or calling us and letting us handle it.”