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Newborn Harbor Seal Abandoned, Rescued In Palos Verdes

May 26, 2023

PALOS VERDES, CA — When a newborn harbor seal with his umbilical chord still attached washed up on the shore in Palos Verdes, the person who found him knew just who to call to make sure he was taken care of.

The rescue team at the Marine Mammal Care Center met Elmer the harbor seal pup on the beach when he was just days old and was left all alone without his mother in sight. After investigating the situation, the team agreed Elmer was in need of rescue and took him back to their San Pedro facility to begin treatment.

Doctor Lauren Palmer, hospital director at the MMCC, said that the circumstances that led to them taking Elmer in were unusual.

"It is not normal for a mother harbor seal to leave their pup for extended periods of time. It is possible she was startled off by human activity, but we will never know for sure," Dr. Palmer said.

Newborn pups are extremely vulnerable to health and nutrition issues, and since Elmer was separated from his mother so early with the umbilical cord still attached to him, that poses a unique risk to his health. The short time spent with his mother means Elmer did not receive much milk and still has an immature immune system, according to Dr. Palmer.

The good news is Elmer's umbilical cord fell off normally and doesn't appear to be at risk of infection, Dr. Palmer said.

At the MMCC, Dr. Palmer said Elmer is stable but has had episodes of lethargy and hypoglycemia and veterinarians assess his health condition daily. Elmer is fed multiple times a day and caretakers provide antibiotics to help protect him while his immune system develops.

There is no specific timeline for Elmer's recovery, Dr. Palmer said, but MMCC staff said he has a long way to go before he is released back into the ocean.

"We are just taking it day by day at this point," Dr. Palmer said.

To donate to the MMCC to help with Elmer's recovery as well as support the treatment of other patients under the facility's care visit the organization's website.

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