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Kenai Middle School students head to the beach with Brie and Sangria

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Two Pacific Harbor Seals, a science teacher who engages her students, volunteers, and 134 seventh graders from Kenai Middle School joined the Alaska SeaLife Rehabilitation Program team for an exciting learning opportunity. 

September 8, 2011, the skies cleared in time for three busloads of students to run to the shore and congregate along a line drawn in the sand. Only a few yards away, two large kennels were carried to beach. Anticipation mounted. 

The day before, two presenters from the Alaska SeaLife Rehabilitation Center met with seventh grade science classes at Kenai Middle school. Students discovered the differences between a seal and a sea lion, dissected sea lion scat, and learned a bit more about the two harbor seals that will be released at Kenai beach. 

About Sangria and Brie, Pacific Harbor Seals Phoca vitulina 

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Brie was found at the Kenai Boat Docks on May 18, only a day old, and orphaned. 

Sangria was found in Anchorage on June 2, at about a week old, also orphaned.  

After rehabilitation at the Alaska SeaLife Center, they are fat, happy, and catching fish and will be released together. Tagged with numbers for ID, Brie will also have a satellite tracker on her back so the SeaLife center and the seventh graders can track her journey.  

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Rochelle Horbacz, Kenai Middle School science teacher explains, “I spent some time this summer volunteering for the wildlife rehabilitation program at the SeaLife Center in Seward. While there I was introduced to eight orphaned harbor seals and one ring seal from Nome. Sangria and Brie were two of the harbor seals I had met. The girls had grown a lot since I last saw them at the end of June. They had moisture around their eyes and plenty of blubber for staying warm in the cold ocean waters. The students were lined up, eager to see the two seals they had heard so much about. As the cages were taken off the truck, the seals looked around with curious faces. Their moment was just seconds away. When the cage doors were opened by two excited students, Sangria took off towards the ocean, using her stomach muscles to get there. Brie was more apprehensive, not wanting to leave the safety of her cage. But with a little tip, she slid out onto the sandy beach. With the sand underneath her skin, she took off towards the rolling waves. Both seals lingered for a bit, looking back at us, but both eventually dove down and out of sight.”  

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Kenai Middle School seventh grade science students observe and reflect: 

“I noticed that each of the seals were about the same size and color. I thought it was interesting how they moved. I looked almost as if they were swimming but on land, kind of like the worm. I was wondering why Brie didn’t come out of her cage but Sangria went out very fast.” – Cassi Holmes 

“I liked the seal release. It was very fun. The seals were very cute and chubby. I liked watching them get use to the water and gradually swimming away. It was cute to see them flop their way down to the beach.” – Abby Beck 

“When they found the seals they were both skinny and dehydrated. When they released the seals they were as healthy as can be. I loved watching the seals bounce on their stomachs to the ocean.” – Kyrsten Maxson 

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“It was very cool being able to see the seal release. The seals were funny when they were flopping to the water. They used their stomach and their blubber jiggled. It was interesting that they put a transmitter on Brie so that they can track her.” – Fionna Heath 

“The seals did not have long flippers so they hopped on their stomach. One didn’t want to go at first and then she got used to it and left.” – Blossom McGahan 

“It surprised me that Brie was larger. They were so cute. It will be interesting to see how they move through Alaska.” – Keyshawn McEnerney 

“I absolutely loved watching the seal release. I thought it was amazing! They were really happy and playful. I wish I could have one as a pet. Thank you!” – Drake Thomas 

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Dozens of photos are posted in the Kenai Middle School photo album on the KPBSD facebook page. Please comment and add your stories to the photographs. 

KPBSD thanks the Alaska SeaLife Center, volunteers, and Kenai Middle school staff and students for an engaging, collaborative learning experience. 

The Alaska SeaLife Center invites everyone to the release of two rehabilitated harbor seals—Colby and Pepperjack—at Lowell Point boat ramp in Seward, Friday, September 16, at 4:00 p.m.  

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Links 

The goal of the Alaska SeaLife Center’s Rehabilitation Program is to rescue, rehabilitate, and release healthy marine mammals back to their natural habitat. This is an important part of the Center’s mission to generate and share scientific knowledge to promote understanding and stewardship of Alaska’s marine ecosystems.    

Alaska SeaLife Center video: Happy Trails Brie and Sangria

 

 

 

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