Postrelease dive ability in rehabilitated harbor seals



The efficacy of seal rehabilitation is examined in a postrelease study of dive ability in harbor seal pups (Phoca vitulina) in the Wash, United Kingdom. Six rehabilitated seals were fitted with Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) Argos Satellite Relay Data Logger tags and their individual dive behavior was monitored for an average of 122 d. The upper 90 percentile edge of dive behavior (dive duration [DD90] and percentage of time at-sea spent in a dive [PD90]), in 7 d bins, was used as a proxy for physiological dive ability. The results are compared with data from five wild adult harbor seals. There was no statistically significant difference between (1) the mean track duration of rehabilitated seals (126.20 ± 27.48 [SD] d) and adult seals (150.2 ± 24.62 d) (P= 0.108), indicating no evidence that short-term survival was less in the rehabilitated group; (2) the mean mass-scaled DD90 of rehabilitated seals (3.95 ± 0.37 min) and adult seals (4.09 ± 0.55 min) (P= 0.632); and (3) the mean PD90 of rehabilitated seals (81.62 ± 1.21%) and adult seals (81.48 ± 3.93%) (P= 0.943). These three results all suggest the success of the rehabilitation program in terms of short-term survival and dive ability.