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The Heartwarming Rescue of 'Phil the Seal' Will Melt Your Heart

A Delaware seal named Phil has weathered a snowstorm; a trek across a parking lot and a big hill; some eye irritation; and a whole lot of mud.

It’s been an eventful few months for one Delaware seal named Phil. The hearty marine animal has weathered a snowstorm; a trek across a parking lot and a big hill; some eye irritation; and a whole lot of mud. But thanks to animal-rescue workers and a town that rallied around him, Phil’s story has a happy ending.



It all started around last Christmas, when the seal unexpectedly showed up in the Coursey Pond spillway in Delaware. That was odd enough, because the spillway is about 12 miles inland.

Normally, a harbor seal like Phil can be found in saltwater. Local animal rescue workers believe he made his way there after following some fish heading up the adjoining Murderkill River.

Local residents were surprised to spot a seal in the spillway and came together to look out for the animal. Many reported on his whereabouts to the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute. One local fisherman, Phil, was especially vigilant. That's where the seal got his name. 

Rescue workers at MERR were determined to monitor Phil as best as possible. They hoped he would eventually make his way back out to the bay. But Phil’s little adventure wasn’t over.


In mid-January, during a heavy snowstorm, the resilient oaf somehow made his way out of the spillway, across a nearby road and parking lot, and then down a boat ramp into Coursey Pond.


Phil may have believed that he was moving closer to his seal buddies out in the bay, but really he was moving himself farther away from a quick route back to the ocean. At this point, Phil seemed in good health and spirits. Still, MERR believed they should start planning a rescue mission to help Phil remain safe and get him back to where he should be.

In the end, it was a bunch of mud that ultimately led to Phil’s rescue. He had started to develop an eye irritation, most likely because he was used to being in water with more saline. Perhaps with low visibility, he made his way into a part of the stream and got stuck in the mud.

That’s when a team decided the time was right for a rescue. Phil seemingly had other plans. He tried to escape the rescue team consisting of members of MERR, staff from Baltimore’s National Aquarium Animal Rescue, a biologist and 20 volunteers.


But the team persisted, and successfully rescued Phil on April 11.


His new temporary home is the National Aquarium. There, he will undergo medical tests and care and hopefully bounce back to brand new. Once he has a clean bill of health, MERR workers are hopeful he will be released back into his natural habitat.


And what a tale he’ll have to tell his pals when he gets there!




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Illustration by Fabio Manucci

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