‘Phil’ the harbor seal released into ocean

After over two months in rehabilitation, “Phil” the harbor seal was released at Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey where he hopped across the beach and back into the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday morning. The site was chosen because ordinarily by this time of year, seals seek the cooler waters north of the Delaware bay.

The seal became a local celebrity when residents noticed him last December in the spillway at Coursey Pond near Felton. He took a step further in January, when he hopped across Canterbury Road and into the pond proper — getting further from his natural environment in bay.

Marine Education Research and Rehabilitation Institute (MERR) took the lead in the eventual rescue of Phil back in April when he got stuck in a mud bog near the pond.

They brought him to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, where he was treated for eye irritation and nursed back to health.

Before releasing him, the National Aquarium placed a tracker on Phil’s back to ensure he doesn’t find his way back any inland streams. The tracker was designed to eventually fall off on its own. MERR director Suzanne Thurman said that the rescue and release was one of the longest drawn out and involved rescues the organization had ever been a part of, but she was very pleased with the outcome.

(Submitted photos)

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