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While IFAW’s Cape Cod-based rescue team commonly rescues seals in need of care, it’s not often that we rescue the same animal twice! That’s exactly what happened this September when a gray seal who we had rescued four years ago as a pup found himself in Shoe Pond, a bit too far from the open ocean in Beverly, MA.
As the seal made his way into the pond through a culvert connecting to a nearby harbor, visitors gathered at the pond with the hopes of catching a glimpse of the unusual visitor (staying back a safe distance, of course). The seal, nicknamed Shoebert by the community, became a local celebrity, with local companies printing t-shirts with his name, a social media account @enteringbeverly posting updates on his daily activities, and the local police department even updating their social media profile photo with a seal to honor their new town mascot.
Throughout the week, Shoebert’s behavior and health were monitored by our standing partners at NOAA, Seacoast Science Center and Whale and Dolphin Conservation. It quickly became clear that he was a little too content in the freshwater pond and required assistance finding his way back to the ocean—a more appropriate home for a large seal.
When IFAW joined in to help monitor the seal, we realized he had a flipper tag with a unique number, indicating that he was a seal our team had rescued back in 2018. He had previously stranded on Cape Cod as a pup, with extensive injuries to his face and hind flippers. IFAW rescued him, provided initial treatment and transferred him to Mystic Aquarium for longer-term care. He was released in August 2018, after four months of rehabilitation for a bone infection, and after vets removed one of his hind digits.
Four years later, Shoebert is now a sub-adult weighing in at 235 lbs, which makes rescue a bit more difficult than when he was a small pup. Ready with large pole nets and small boards, rescue teams carefully attempted to capture him, but he was able to stay just out of reach.
Later, in the early morning hours, Shoebert made his own way out of the pond under the cover of darkness. He traveled down a street and across a parking lot before arriving at the doorstep of the Beverly Police Department. Rescue teams were quickly called on scene to help coax him into a kennel for transport back to the Mystic Aquarium where he received a thorough medical exam. With a clean bill of health, Shoebert was released back into the ocean off the Rhode Island coast a few days later with a satellite tracking tag to monitor his post-release adventures.