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Gray seal pup rescued from Funland area in Rehoboth Beach

Suzanne Thurman (right) and volunteer Rob Rector rescue Eartha.

The Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk had a unique visitor this past weekend – a female gray seal pup.

The pup, which was likely between two to three months old, crawled up onto the Boardwalk and partially down the sidewalk on Brooklyn Avenue.

She was found at nighttime, huddled up against a building near Funland and was still there when volunteers from the Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation Institute showed up to help her.

MERR Institute Executive Director Suzanne Thurman said when volunteers first arrived to the scene, the seal raised her head up and was very alert.

“She was displaying her flippers and she would roll around a little bit trying to get comfortable,” Thurman said.

She continued, “And then, she would just fall asleep.”

Thurman says it is normal for seals to come out of the water to rest on the beach, but very uncommon for one to crawl up on to such a public place.

“She apparently felt that was a nice sheltered space for her to be and if we had left her alone she probably would’ve slept there all night long,” Thurman said.

The seal, which has since been named “Eartha” because she was found on Earth Day, had a small bite wound on her hind flipper, but Thurman said it looked clean and "did not really warrant veterinary intervention."

Volunteers worked to move her away from the boardwalk to a safer location. Thurman could not specify the location because the MERR Institute may use it again for other seal responses and rescues.

The MERR Institute received a report from beachgoers on Monday that nearby dogs startled Eartha and she went back into the water. Thurman says she’s hopefully swimming out at sea.

Around April, large numbers of seals typically start to head north toward New England. Thurman says they’re seeking cooler water temperatures. Delaware can expect to see seals in smaller numbers, throughout May, she said.

So far this year, the MERR Institute has responded to 147 calls about seals. Of those 147, they’ve rescued three.

The MERR Institute says if you see a seal, call their stranding hotline at 302-228-5029. Federal law requires people to stay at least 150 feet away from a seal.

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