Potapaug Audubon and Killingworth Library will present "Mystic Aquarium's Marine Mammal Rescue" on Thursday, February 7th at 7pm at the Killingworth Firehouse. Guest Speaker Janelle Schuh, Stranding Coordinator for Mystic Aquarium's Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Program, will discuss Mystic's program.
Schuh says, "While we do a lot of rescue and rehabilitation, the ultimate goal of our program is release of the animals that come into our rehabilitation clinic."
For the community, Mystic Aquarium's stranding program holds first responder training classes. "While I’m not going to be signing anyone up into our first responder program, a lot of what I’m going to be talking about is very similar to what we discuss in our training programs," she said and added, "I’ll talk about the common species we see in our area – not only marine mammals but also sea turtles. And, I’ll talk about what to do if you come upon an animal on the beach. Of course, you contact us ... but there are also things you can do in the meantime before we are able to get there."
Since Schuh has only an hour to present, she says: “It’ll be a whirlwind of info about what our program is like day in and day out.”
It’s important for people to know what to do because “some of the species we see are animals listed in the Endangered Species Act. We’ll see on occasion whales in our area – humpback whales, for example, and sea turtles."
Most of the turtles in Long Island Sound are either threatened or endangered.
"Other species which are doing well, like seals in general, can be feisty on the beach so it’s important that people understand that seals in particular don’t need to be in the water 100 percent of the time. And, they can get kind of cranky if you get close to them. They can bite and there are diseases they can transmit to you," Schuh warns.
"There are a lot of zoonotic diseases, diseases that can be transferred to a human from an animal and vice versa. These are not specific to marine mammals, but not a lot of doctors are aware of what to do with a marine mammal bite and which antibiotics to give."
Mystic Aquarium's Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Program has documentation ready to provide to a physician if an Aquarium employee is bitten. "We are also able to provide this to the general public if something were to happen," she said.
The Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Program covers not only Connecticut but also Rhode Island and Fishers Island.
If you are bitten or find a marine mammal or sea turtle (dead or alive), please call 860-572-5844 ext. 107. This hotline number is managed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and goes to a voicemail which pages staff.
Following this program, there will be a sign up sheet to attend a Winter Seal Watch out of the Thimble Islands, Branford, on Saturday, March 9th from 3pm until 4:30pm. $15 per person includes coffee, hot chocolate and pizza.
Seating is limited, so please register in advance by calling the Killingworth Library at 860-663-2000 or stopping by in person.