Phil the Wayward Seal Released into the Atlantic Ocean - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Phil the Wayward Seal Released into the Atlantic Ocean

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SANDY HOOK, New Jersey -- After months of recovery at the National Aquarium, Phil the "wayward seal" who once called Kent County home is back in the wild. 

Hundreds of people gathered at the Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook, N.J. to see Phil be released into the Atlantic Ocean. Aquarium staffers said Phil's release is a huge success, as his treatment presented some challenges.

"He exhibited some medical conditions we hadn't encountered in seals before," says Jennifer Dittmar, the National Aquarium's Curator of Animal Rescue. "He had a lot of ticks when he came in because he was in a wooded area." 

Dittmar says he was also underweight and suffered a mild seizure at one point. Phil had an eye issue when he was admitted in April. Kate Schaffer , the aquarium's Rehabilitation Manager, says Phil has since gained thirty pounds and is in great health to go back where he belongs: the ocean.

"We work hard to keep him wild so it's not sad for us," she tells WBOC. "It's a great rewarding feeling."

Suzanne Thurman, Executive Director of the M.E.R.R. Institute agrees with Shaffer. Thurman and four others from M.E.R.R. made the 200 mile drive to see Phil off Tuesday morning, as Thurman and her volunteers first kept track of Phil when he was discovered in Coursey Pond in December of last year.

"This was a long process with Phil and of course the longer we got to watch him and get to know him the more we loved him," she says. "Our goal is to help him get back to the ocean, and thanks to the National Aquarium and all they did, that has come true today, so we are thrilled."

The aquarium says they released Phil in New Jersey to try and ensure he doesn't end up twelve miles inland again, and Phil is currently fitted with a tracker to monitor his movements. 

"That will give us a lot of information about harbor seals in general but specifically Phil because he was such a unique case," Thurman adds.

The tracker will naturally fall off when Phil's coat molts.

For more on Phil's release, visit the National Aquarium's website. 

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