Sunday, November 02, 2008

And Then There Were Two

Yep, we have released almost all the baby seals! WOOHOO! Our first release was back on September 2nd and quite a few of the seasonal interns got to participate.

We started out going through the usual steps:

First, someone nets the seals one by one out of the big seal pool and hands the seal off to a few people:

Jessica, who is a friend of head rehabber Penny, came up and was our seasonal rehabber. She also got to be the netter woman during this release. Hi Jessica!!

Then the seal gets placed on the scale for one last weigh in.

It's kind of like that show The Biggest Loser, but with the seals it's more like The Biggest Gainer. And with them, the prize for gaining enough weight is to be set free!

Our biggest gainer? This guy!

This is O'o. Look at him! He doesn't even have a neck! He looks like one of those weeble wobbles from when I was a kid. He weighed in at a massive 74.5lbs, just shy of the release record of 76lbs. Usually we would have released him WAY before he got this big, but we never release seal pups by themselves, so we had to wait for others to get to an appropriate weight.

After they get weighed, then comes the not so fun part of placing a tag in their flippers.

Shona is our official seal-sitter-on-er person and Penny does the dirty work. Here Penny is icing the flipper to numb it up a bit and to try and minimize the bleeding. Just because of their position on top of the seal and what they need to do, things can look weird and suspect if you are facing behind them.

"Whatcha lookin' at Penny?" I asked her. It was at this point that a: they both knew that I had taken a picture that looked...well....awkward, for lack of a better word and b: that, for better or for worse, it would be posted on my blog.

Good thing everyone has a great sense of humor about these types of situations!

Then comes the actual punching of the hole for the flipper tag.

Penny has this down to a science and usually can do this with very minimal bleeding. Yep, she's a SUPAHSTAR!

They are then crated up and taken to our Secret Squirrel (or is that Secret Seal?) release site. We let the interns do the honors of opening their crates.

And predictably, with more than 2 seals being released, some bolt out right away, and others...well....

..not so much. Here is O'o on the beach.

Can you see the "slight" difference in his size in comparison to the other seal? And yes, that was a sarcastic and rhetorical question!

But eventually they all got out into the water and started exploring their natural environment and new home.

Yesterday's seal release went smoothly and I think everyone knew that Shrike would bolt for the water once her crate was opened, which she did.

Isn't she a beauty? Eskimo was a bit slower on the uptake, but when they both spotted something that was completely alien and foreign to them, then there was no stopping them. What was it?

A kelp bed! Once this was discovered, much fun ensued and they would NOT stray far from it.

We said goodbye and left them frolicking in it.

I know in my last post I told you about the ending part of that interesting Saturday and eluded to the fact that it began on an interesting note as well. Well, allow me now to elaborate on that!

We got a call from a local woman who had a buck on her property that had gotten his antlers tangled in a rope fence, a rope fence she was using to keep the deer away from some trees on her property! This was the 2nd call of this nature that we had received within 2 weeks and thank goodness that Jessica, who was the rehabber working that Saturday, had been on the previous call, as neither I nor Kate, one of our seasonal interns, had. So we loaded up some sheets and some clippers and headed out to see what was what.

This is what we saw when we were walking around the path that led to the deer:

Saying that his antlers were "tangled" in the fence was a complete understatement. He was completely snarled in this thing. When we walked around to where he was, he completely freaked out, jumping this way...

...and that way...

..and all we did for a few seconds was watch to see how he moved and try to assess the best way to get him free from this mess. Jessica took charge and said that we needed to immobilize his head, as deer use their front feet as weapons, not their back like horses do, and this guy could have easily shattered any of our bones if he connected with us. So Kate went and grabbed the section on the left while I went and stood on the other side of the deer on that rope section. His jumping ended up landing him on his side, where we immediately covered his head with a sheet.

Jessica moved in to cut the ropes and the second she got one piece cut free...

...he jumped to his feet, we scattered, and he started the whole "freaking out" process all over again. At this point, we knew we had to do something and fast. Why? Because deer build up stress toxins. And if they build up enough, it can kill them. So we had Kate pull hard on her end, with me telling her to use the tree as a "fulcrum" (I'm not even sure I used that term correctly, but that's what I told her) and to pull the rope hard and down around the tree. I went over and literally STOMPED on my side of the rope fence and the second I did that, using his head as a pivot point, he flipped completely over on his back, pointing in the complete opposite direction that he had been facing, with his antlers buried in the ground. Jessica and I looked at each other with shocked faces and I said "He's down!", so we hurriedly threw a sheet and a blanket over him and got down to business. We had the homeowner come take my place standing on my section of the rope fence and Jessica had me come over and put pressure on the buck's body as a deterrent, so that he hopefully wouldn't get up again.

Jessica started frantically cutting away the rope as quickly as she could, asking me at intervals if he was still breathing, to which I thankfully could say "Yes" each time she asked. I, wracked with guilt, at one point asked her if he might have broken his neck during the last flip, as he was so still. She said that she didn't know. When she finally got all of the roping cut off his antlers, we grabbed off the sheet and blanket and scurried back a ways to see what he would do.

It didn't look good. He just laid there, breathing very shallowly, and at times his front leg would twitch. Jessica gave him a minute or two and then walked forward and clapped her hands to try and get him on his feet. She got no reaction except for a slight widening of the eyes. At this point we all thought he wasn't going to make it. The nice homeowner put her arm around Jessica and told her that we did our best and that she understood if we needed to call someone to come and put him out of his misery. We decided to pack up and do just that. Jessica went to grab our clippers, which were still in the grass by him, and happened to move that branch by his head, at which point he EXPLODED onto his feet and took off! I can not begin to tell you how elated we all were. It was a "high" that lasted for several hours afterward. WOOHOO!

Til next time...


Kari said...

Jesus, what a picture of that deer! I would have thought he was a goner if I saw him like that! Glad he was ok!

icydol said...

hehehe.. I like to look at Shona's butt! haha

Jan R said...

Hi Heather: I did not get the chance to meet you when I came up to visit my daughter, Jessica, but your blog is awesome. It was great to read the story Jessie had already told me about from your perspective. Keep up the good work of WolfHollow. What you and your colleagues do for the wild animals is to be admired and commended. P.S. - Hi Penny

Anonymous said...

I kept wondering when you would post again. I love reading all the stories of Wolf Hollow. Your pictures are great, too. Thanks for all you do.

Penny said...

waiting............... (good thing I didn't hold my breath)..................