Two 5-month-old New Hampshire seals found battered and exhausted after a chain of March nor’easters were finally sent back into the ocean Sunday evening, drawing a crowd of onlookers at the Sagamore beach release spot.
Saco and Pemigewasset — named for two New Hampshire rivers — spent the last two months slowly recovering with the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay, after the Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue found them, said Ashley Stokes, a Marine Mammal Rescue spokeswoman.
Saco turned up in the parking lot of Brown’s Lobster Pound in Seabrook, N.H., on March 5, looking extremely lethargic, she said.
“He was really small, really weak,” Stokes said. “He’s obviously a small animal, and probably got tossed around in the nor’easters and washed up onto the road.”
Pemi was found washed up on Seabrook Beach a few weeks later. She, on the other hand, was feisty and alert when officials found her, Stoke said. But when the animal rescue team returned the next morning to check on her, she was fairly sluggish.
Both were suffering head and parasite infections, so the rescue team took them to rehabilitation and put them on antibiotics, she said.
“Saco was pretty lazy in rehab. He was very lethargic and extremely weak. It took him a bit of time to bounce back,” Stokes said. “Pemi was the opposite — she was very fiesty . . . and very vocal.”
After a couple months, the seals were ready. They have to weigh at least 50 pounds and be off of antibiotics for two weeks before the rescue team can release them back into the wild, Stokes said.
When Saco and Pemi were released, Saco weighed 78 pounds and Pemi weighed 58 pounds. They were also eating fish on their own, and had built up their swimming stamina.
At the Scusset Beach State Reservation on Sunday, a crowd of about 250 people showed up to cheer on the gray seals as they made their way back into the water.
“Saco went first, went right out of the kennel and went straight toward the water,” Stokes said. “Pemi was a bit more hesitant. It took her a while to get out of the crate, and when she got out, she immediately wanted to get back in.”
But eventually Pemi slowly made her way into the water, Stokes said, and once she was back in, she took off.
“They’re still young in the grand scheme of things,” but they’ll go off on their separate ways very quickly, Stokes said.Elise Takahama can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @elisetakahama.