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Rehabbed Alaska seal tracked to Russia

An orphaned seal released in early August has made it to Russia, reports the Alaska Sealife Center.

Swingley, an orphaned ringed seal who recently graduated from the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Rescue and Rehabilitation program, was set free August 10 and immediately set off from Norton Sound near Nome, Alaska on a direct course for Russia. He has traveled more than 500 miles in just over a month and seems to have made a temporary pause far up Russia’s northern coast.

“I really could not believe how far Swingley has gone,” says Tim Lebling, veterinary rehabilitation technician with the Alaska SeaLife Center. “I am so proud of all of the seals, but Swingley’s journey is amazing.”

Swingley is one of two orphaned ringed seals released in August that are now being monitored by researchers at the Alaska SeaLife Center with satellite technology. Swingley has crossed the international dateline in his 500-mile journey and is currently located near Ostrov Vrangelya (Wrangel Island) off the coast of Siberia. Seavey, the other ringed seal, has gone south on a 600-mile meandering path and has traveled as far as Bristol Bay.

“Both seals are carrying a satellite transmitter glued to the fur on their back. The transmitters send signals that are picked up by polar-orbiting satellites and then forwarded to my office via e-mail, so we can track the seals in near-real time,” says Dr. Russ Andrews, a specialist in tracking marine wildlife at the Alaska SeaLife Center. “This technology is crucial when you want to keep track of animals that swim far away from shore and dive deep beneath the waves, especially when they cover such great distances in a short period of time,” he adds.

Seals often go without food in the wild, sometimes for up to a few weeks. The ringed seals survival for over a month and long-distance movements suggest that they are doing fine, but still looking for a spot to call home, says Andrews.

The ringed seals, Seavey and Swingley, were rescued and rehabilitated at the Alaska SeaLife Center. Their journey to release followed the path of the Iditarod trail by truck and airplane from Anchorage to Nome. They were set free by the Alaska SeaLife Center off the coast of Nome, Alaska on August 10.

Seavey, arriving thin and hungry in May, was the first ringed seal rehabilitated at the Alaska Sealife Center Rescue and Rehabilitation facility this past spring. Swingley arrived slightly later, in June. Each year the Alaska SeaLife Center’s rescue and rehabilitation department picks a theme for new arrivals. This year the animals were named after Iditarod champions. Seavey and Swingley were named after Iditarod racers Mitch Seavey and Doug Swingley.

[Read more at Alaska SeaLife Center]

Alaska SeaLife Center | Posted 09.14.04 at 6:19 pm

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