19th and 20th November 2001

To date, the Irish Seal sanctuary has rescued, rehabiliated and released almost 200 seals back to Irish waters. Our most recent release was of a rare Hooded Seal and the following is an account of his stay at the Sanctuary.

Sept. 2nd and Seal Sanctuary member Kevin McCormack was called out to a seal that was reported on Wexford beach. Kevin, an experienced handler, knew that this was no ordinary seal and got on to Brendan Price at the Sanctuary to tell his story. Brendan thought it was a young Grey Seal and suggested that Kevin bring it out to one of the islands and let it go. However, Kevin still had a nagging feeling that this was different and decided to ring Brendan again and "put the seal on the phone to him". The strange growls convinced Brendan that we had "something different".

The seal was dispatched to the Sanctuary in North Co. Dublin and it took a further few days, with the help of the New England Aquarium and others, to confirm that what we had was a Hooded Seal.

So named because of the inflatable crest or hood on the adult male's forehead, the ice-breeding hooded seal is found in deep water in the far north Atlantic Ocean. They are generally regarded as solitary in nature, except during moulting and mating. They seldom come on land and are rarely seen by man.

Initially, "Flubber" refused to eat and he was a worry to us. We had no idea what was wrong. He started to lose his fur, a stress moult, as it's called, and he still didn't eat. Бine Carroll at the Sanctuary suggested adding ice to his pool, so we made as much ice as we could and started adding it to the water. Almost immediately he started to feed. He took 45 fish in that first day, and from then on, never looked back.

The 19th November was the day in which "Flubber" started his journey back home. He travelled by by road to Galway and was loaded onto the L.E. Niamh. The Irish Navy had come to our assistance and agreed to bring him far out into the North Atlantic to be released and hopefully make his way back to the ice flows from where he came.

Before dawn next morning, on an early tide, we sailed out of Galway harbour. After 10 hours at sea, we reached the release site, just past the Continental Shelf. The ship slowed to a stop, a rib was launched and finally Flubber's box was lowered over the edge. As it reached the water the door was opened. A large wave entered. Flubber woke and immediately shot out of the box. He dived, only to resurface a few seconds later, 10 metres away. One worry was that he would go under the ship and strike the propellors. No worry. He headed away almost immediately, followed by the rib to keep check on his progress. The release, unlike releases from the shore, was over in a matter of seconds. But what a magical sight. Such a small creature in a huge ocean and how he rode those waves. Another successful release and many thanks to the Irish Navy and Capt. Gerard O'Flynn and crew of the L.E. Niamh.

This was one release that will not be forgotten.









Copyright 2000 by the Irish Seal Sanctuary. All rights reserved.