Underweight Seal Pup Who Didn't Learn How To Eat Rescued From New Jersey Sand Dune

An underweight seal has been rescued after it was found on a beach in New Jersey on Sunday, hundreds of miles from its birthplace.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the young seal was their first patient of 2022 after they discovered the animal on a beach at Seaside Park. The group named the gray seal #22-001.

Images included in the center's Facebook post show the seal stranded on the sandy New Jersey beach. They also shared a photo of a seal pup in Maine to show what a seal pup should look like after weaning.

The center said that the seal pup likely swam over 400 miles from its birthplace in Maine before being found at Seaside Park.

The pup was found resting on the beach following its long journey and was suspected of being unsuccessful at hunting en route.

The rescue center said they believed the baby seal was around three to four weeks old and underweight as it weighed less than typical gray seals do at birth. The seal weighed in at 30.5 pounds, under the average birthweight of a grey seal pup of around 35 pounds.

The center wrote on Facebook: "This little pup likely did not learn how to eat on her own after being weaned from her mother."

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) states that gray seal numbers in the U.S. and Canada are estimated at around 450,000 at present.

The animals once faced extinction through hunting and habitat loss, but conservation efforts have seen their numbers rebound dramatically in recent decades.

The passing of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972 forbade Americans to hunt, capture or kill the animals, and studies, including one published in the Journal of Mammalogy in 2019, have shown that in the years since gray seal numbers have rebounded on the North Atlantic coast.

The seal pup rescued by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center was taken in by rescuers and supported at an intensive care unit at their facility.

The group said on Facebook that their staff had helped feed the seal with supportive care fluids and assisted feeding of fish, and that the animal was since starting to recover.

The seal pup has been enrolled in the center's "fish school" as they attempt to encourage its evolved feeding habits to hunt and eat fish independently.

The Center said the seal would stay with them until it gained enough weight to be safely released back into the wild.

The group's Facebook post generated over a thousand likes, hundreds of shares and dozens of positive comments, and the center said they had raised over $2,600 in donations given in response to the post.

Baby grey seal seen in Helgoland
A stock image showing a baby gray seal. There are an estimated 450,000 of the animals in U.S. and Canadian waters. mthaler/Getty Images