March 7th, was ending like any other Wednesday in March with frigid temperatures and a good sunset over Point Judith Breakwater. Having a day off though the New England winter tends to be pretty slow, cold water surf sessions, hikes that last well into sundown looking for places of solitude to think and write, and taking walks up and down the waters edge with a few beers are often the daily plans. The crisp, dead land takes a nap and seems to completely stop while the dark, cold waters wake up and come to life. As the North Eastern land dwellers take shelter for the winter, the Oceans erupt with life, primarily the migration and pupping of the Grey Seal.
As my girlfriend and I were finishing up a sunset, we got a photo from a friend showing a seal taking a snooze on the beach not far from where we were parked. We took a walk down to find a young seal laying at the waters edge. Upon initial observation the seal seemed no different than any other seal, until my dog came within a few feet of it. The seal made very little effort to defend itself, and continued to rest completely unconcerned with its threats and surroundings.
We grew concerned and a few phone calls were made, and eventually we were in contact with the Mystic Aquarium. Walter “Skip” Graf had one of his team members of the Marine Mammal & Sea Turtle Stranding Program head down to the breakwater to check the seal out. That night we were notified that it had become to dark to assess the seal completely, but it was normal for a young seal to beach itself to rest regardless of distraction and a follow up would be performed the next morning.
I tossed and turned most of the night, waking early to find myself thinking about the seal. At 6am March 8th, I returned to the breakwater to find the seal had been pushed further up the beach by the tide. Keeping in mind that the seal was probably fine, I snapped a few photos (above) and went to work with the intention of coming back the next day.
The next day I had found the beach empty, a feeling of relief came over me thinking the seal had made it back to sea. Typically nature deals with itself, without the need of human interaction and having naturalist ideals I tend to not become involved with the “circle of life”, however; something about that seal forced me to care beyond my own beliefs….
…On March 16th I woke up to a beautiful sunrise in Southern Utah, I had absolutely no phone service, and the thoughts of that young grey seal had come and gone as I was ready to be encompassed in a 4 day backpacking experience. The sound of an email beeped on my phone…. SXHg1211 appeared in the subject line, thinking it was some of a virus I scrolled through to delete it until I noticed the sender, Walter “Skip” Graf.
Turns out, Skip had emailed me to update me about the seal who had actually been picked up and brought to the Mystic Aquarium to undergo a rehabilitation program. Skip notified me that the seal was a female between 1-2 months old and had a number of issues including serious infection because of a broken tooth. He assured me that he would keep me updated with her condition and that he would include me in the naming process.
Over the next few months, a few updates came through email updating my girlfriend and I on the condition of the seal, and the survey process to pick a name for her. She was a fighter through her entire rehab, learning the ways of the wild and in the end she was named Spooner in memory of a Dr. Tracey Spoon, who was The Research Scientist at Mystic Aquarium that sadly passed away shortly after the seals’ admittance.
Months went by and the news of Spooner became more scarce until two weeks ago when I received news that Spooner was about ready to rejoin the creatures of the sea and be released from the care of Mystic Aquarium.
At 8am on August 24th, Spooner and the Mystic Rescue team arrived at Blue Shutters Beach in Charlestown, RI to complete the final leg in her rehabilitation journey.
After 5 and a half months of antibiotics, dental surgery and recovery, Spooner was ready to go, double the weight, double the size, and about 500 times more energy from the time that we found her.
I would like to thank, Skip Graf and everyone over at Mystic Aquarium for everything that they did for Spooner, the earth could use more people like you; and most importantly, in Memory of Dr. Tracey Spoon, may Spooner live a long healthy life!