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Gray Seal Rehabilitated, Released Back into Ocean

Jun 10, 2015 05:03 PM EDT

After sustaining an injury in the wild, Lily the gray seal was successfully rehabilitated at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, and just recently released back into the ocean with a clean bill of health.

Remarkably, Lily is the 150th marine animal to be rehabilitated by the aquarium's Animal Rescue Team.

Nearly two months ago, the seal pup was found stranded on the coast of Delaware with a broken jaw, unable to eat by herself, Discovery reported. Local officials quickly transferred her into the custody of the National Aquarium and its team of expert veterinarians.

The Animal Rescue Team feared that Lily's fractured lower jaw would require surgery, an intensive operation on a seal so young. However, thanks to the aquarium's advanced medical care, over the past seven weeks Lily's lower jaw has completely healed. She has also put on healthy weight, gaining about 12 pounds, according to WJZ.

On Tuesday morning, aquarium staff released Lily off of Assateague Island back into the Atlantic Ocean (seen here). Staff members had prepared for this moment, helping Lily hone her hunting and foraging skills for her eventual release back into the wild. Hopefully, they have given her the necessary skills to survive and thrive once more.

Since its founding in 1991, the Animal Rescue Team has provided medical care for a variety of different marine animals, including Kemp's ridley, green and loggerhead sea turtles; a pygmy sperm whale; a manatee; and rough-toothed dolphins.

Gray seals (Halichoerus grypus), like all marine mammals, are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), established in 1972.

They are found in coastal waters, separated into three distinct populations: the western Atlantic population, the eastern Atlantic population, and a third population located in the Baltic Sea. Young seals often disperse widely, sometimes going over 1,000 miles (1,610 km) from their natal grounds, according to the NOAA. At birth, pups weigh approximately 35 pounds (16 kg) and fatten quickly - gaining 2.5-3 pounds per day in the first 3 weeks on rich milk from their mothers. Pups are born with creamy white fur that is shed after the first three weeks of life.

Over the last few centuries, gray seals were hunted for their meat and fur in great numbers, causing many of their populations to decline. Though still culled by humans in Canada and other areas, many of these populations have bounced back and are continuing to grow thanks to the MMPA.

Current population numbers for the western North Atlantic stock are unknown but are estimated at over 250,000 animals.

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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