Brigatine, NJ’s Marine Mammal Stranding Center is gearing up for busy season. The seal and turtle hospital 10 minutes from the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City gets most of its human visitors in summer. But seals tend to land sick or injured on beaches from January to April or May. You don’t get to pet them or anything, but you can still come on Sundays in winter and see the process.
“Folks will only get to see the animals via TV camera because the little darlings are inside two air-conditioned buildings that are not accessible to the public,” says co-director Sheila Dean, who started the quiet little center with her husband Robert Schoelkopf in 1978.
Right now the center has one cold-stunned turtle in critical condition and one gray seal, who has been recovering for nine months and is set to be released Wednesday in Tuckerton Bay. A big colony of harbor seals lives off shore and she can either join them or just head out to sea.
They had both worked at Atlantic City’s old timey amusement park the Steel Pier in 1976. She was a seal and dolphin trainer; he was a manager. She likes helping the animals back to the wild much better than teaching them tricks. “Sure, some live longer in captivity, but at what cost?” Together they would go out on calls for stranded marine mammals, even though they didn’t have a real place to care for them.
Over the last 35 years they’ve been perfecting the operation, which now includes a marine mammal ambulances (one for whales and dolphins, another for smaller creatures), boats, rehab pools and museum.
Check out the Marine Mammal Stranding Center
Where to go to see seals