Sealife Rescue Rehabilitation and Research (SR3) announced this week the return to the wild of a rescued and rehabilitated harbor seal pup,

“Sagittarius,” also known as 22-49 after 92 days of care at Des Moines’ Sealife Rescue Center, the first of its kind in the Pacific Northwest, is the 49th patient of 2022 and the 88th marine animal cared for at the rescue center since opening on Earth Day, 2021.

Sagittarius was rescued on Nov. 19 from Whidbey Island after community members reported the pup to the local marine mammal stranding network. Local responders observed the pup until it was clear that without medical care, the pup would continue to decline and suffer if left on the frequently populated beach. With coordination by SR3 staff, the response groups worked together to get Sagittarius to the hospital.

“By responding and providing medical care to sick or injured animals, including whales and other marine life entangled by human-made products and fishing gear, we learn from the animals that share our local waterways,” said Casey Mclean, Executive Director of SR3 and Veterinary Nurse. “Harbor seals eat over 60 different species of fish, many that humans also eat, and some of us swim and dive in the same waters. If these animals are sick, it’s important we learn why and how we can work to ensure a healthier Salish Sea for all of us.”

Upon arrival at the Sealife Rescue Center, Sagittarius received an intake exam and was diagnosed with gastrointestinal, nutritional and respiratory disease. He received various medications, vitamins and fluids to treat his conditions. His recovery was uneven as he slowly gained strength. Since mid-November, Sagittarius battled his various health issues and after a hard-won fight, was released today on Whidbey Island.

The hospital remains ready for patients year-round. Winter and spring tend to bring more medically complex cases and often older animals. In late spring and summer, the hospital will treat many harbor seal patients suffering due to human impacts. In addition to harbor seal pups, the Center recently treated a juvenile elephant seal, “Pickle,” who weighed 210 pounds and was recently released back in the wild after two weeks of care. 

About Sealife Response, Rehabilitation and Research
Sealife Response, Rehabilitation, and Research (SR3) protects marine wildlife in the Pacific Northwest and beyond through its three signature programs. With specialty staff and a marine ambulance, SR3 responds to stranded and entangled animals. In 2021, the organization opened the region’s first dedicated marine wildlife hospital, located in the Des Moines Marina to serve patients in need of long-term care. SR3 works to address the root cause of marine animal health issues through scientific research with a major focus on the endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Learn more at