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When Maine Seals Are In Trouble, She Gets The Call

She developed a passion for the marine fauna living along the coast and knew from an early age that she wanted to devote her life to protecting them.

“I just remember being so amazed (by them) and wondering what was going on in their life,” Doughty said.

She also realized that their livelihoods were threatened by pollution, habitat destruction and other human activities.

“I knew I wanted to do something to help these animals,” Doughty said.

She became a marine biologist and worked for several years with emergency response and rehabilitation organizations for sick and injured marine mammals. But as nonprofits and state agencies lost funding or closed their doors, Doughty decided to step in and fill the void.

Since 2011, her nonprofit, Marine Mammals of Maine, has provided response efforts, assistance and medical care to more than 3,000 marine animals.

When Covid-19 hit, Doughty said they couldn’t afford to slow down – the animals still needed their help.

“We were so worried about what the pandemic might bring and how we would stay afloat as a nonprofit in uncertain times,” Doughty said. “Our team has been strong and we could be deemed essential in keeping our doors open to continue helping and caring for the animals.”

In March 2020, just as the United States began its response to the pandemic, the organization moved into a new, larger facility that allowed it to expand its long-term care capacity to eight seals at one time. given.

When another New England-based marine animal rescue program they coordinated with temporarily suspended long-term animal care amid the pandemic, Doughty’s work became more vital than ever.

“We couldn’t bring animals to them and there was a lack of re-education places for the animals. So we were really needed and there was more pressure to keep our center open,” Doughty said.

The group operates a 24-hour hotline, responding to calls about distressed or deceased marine mammals and sea turtles.

“We are the only organization authorized to respond to marine mammal strandings within 2,500 miles of coastline,” Doughty said, adding that most of the animals they respond to are seals.

The group has federal authorization to provide temporary care to critically ill and injured seals. If Doughty and his team determine that a seal is not likely to survive in the wild without intervention, it is transported to their center and treated to health.

When Maine Seals Are In Trouble, She Gets The Call

The staff work closely with the veterinarians, who determine the appropriate treatment for the seals they care for. Most seals require a minimum of three months of intensive care before they can be released.

“Any seal we save, the ultimate goal is for that animal to be released back into the wild,” Doughty said.

The association is also responding to calls about dead seals, whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles. Some are collected to perform an autopsy (an autopsy for animals). The data collected allows Doughty and his team to further monitor disease trends, the human impact on marine mammal health, and more.

The group’s outreach efforts further promote marine conservation and stewardship among youth, locals and tourists.

“I feel this intense responsibility to help these animals,” Doughty said. “And really, that’s what I was put on this Earth for.”

CNN’s Laura Klairmont spoke with Doughty about her job. Below is an edited version of their conversation.

CNN: What are the unique characteristics of seals that sparked your interest?

Lynda Doughty: What I love about seals is that they really look like dogs. They are also very charismatic. They are funny with their behavior. They are really curious, and there is so much diversity in their populations. They can have different personalities.

There is so much unknown about their habitat use; these animals spend most of their life in water. Their benefit to the ecosystem is that they are a top predator species and we need that kind of balance.

CNN: How have humans adversely affected the health and habitat of seals and other marine mammals?

Valiant: There are physical impacts – animals that have been struck by a boat, injured by a propeller injury, entangled in marine debris, or ingested marine pollutants such as plastics. Another significant human impact that we are seeing is the harassment of marine animals. Being a constant disturbance around the areas where marine mammals are found can impact their natural behavior and the way they conduct their daily activities.

With the increase in human activity on the beaches, these animals do not have time to rest and regain their energy. Or the animals try to get out (of the water), but people try to push them or bring them back inside because they think they need to be wet or in the water all the time . Another problem is that people are trying to get selfies with marine mammals. Taking selfies with seals can actually cause a lot of stress and harm to this animal.

CNN: Much of your job is providing long-term care for abandoned seal pups. How can human interaction lead to abandonment of baby seals?

Valiant: In the spring here, there are baby harbor seals that are born along the coast. Once the puppy is born, it stays with its mother for about four weeks. Mom usually goes to get food and then comes back. This is happening at a time when there are more people on our shores in general. These animals are attracting more and more people. What is worrying is when this could separate a baby seal from its mother.

If she sees increased human activity where her baby seal is located, it may increase the chances of a baby being abandoned. If there are people around this puppy or picking up and moving this puppy, too many people are trying to take a picture of them, mom may not come back; she sort of runs away before saving her puppy. And once the abandonment occurs, this baby seal will not survive.

CNN: Why are the educational and research components of your work so important?

Valiant: A lot of our educational activities really teach people what marine mammals are in general and what they should and shouldn’t do if they encounter these animals. We try to reduce the impacts, where animals are not surrounded by people all the time. The objective is to provide them with the information so that they know how to best respect marine mammals.

Marine mammals are truly sentinels of our ecosystem, and what happens in the ocean and our waters affects us. So, learning from them really helps us better understand what’s going on in our world.

Want to get involved? Check Maine Marine Mammals Website and see how to help.
To donate to Marine Mammals of Maine through GoFundMe, Click here


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