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COLLEGE STUDENT FORCE-FEEDS BABY SEAL INTO A SAFE HARBOR

A 10-pound, milkshake-drinking orphan from the sea has become the newest toddler at Marineland and Game Farm.

Caper, a 30-day-old harbor seal found abandoned on Belfry Beach in Nova Scotia, slowly is getting used to a diet of solid fish after three weeks of blended mackerel milkshakes.

The culinary masterpiece was prepared by Tricia Donavan, a 24-year-old college student from Cape Breton, who nursed the seal back to health.

Ms. Donavan said she adopted Caper after friends found it almost fully dehydrated on the beach.

"We had to force-feed him with a syringe," Ms. Donavan said. She said the milkshake "consisted of blended mackerel, Isomil, vitamin B, salt tablets and spring water."

Ms. Donavan, a psychology major at University College of Cape Breton, had no apparent training in caring for seals, said Angus Matthews, director of operations at Marineland.

"She just used common sense at first and force-fed him pure water," Matthews explained.

After varied suggestions from friends on the best food for a baby seal, Ms. Donavan called Matthews.

"The first formula they had gotten was one that consisted of things like whipping cream, peanut oil and cows milk -- things a seal never comes in contact with," he said. "She finally called me after a couple of days, and I pulled out an old formula stashed away in my files I used to use when I took care of harbor seals on the west coast."

Ms. Donavan said that until she flew into Ontario with Caper last Wednesday, everyone who knew Caper thought the seal was a female.

"At first we thought he was a she and called her Cordilia," she said. But after a thorough check from Matthews after the flight, the name was changed to Caper, after Ms. Donavan's hometown.

Ms. Donavan is staying in Ontario until Thursday so that Caper can get used to living without his adopted mother.

According to Matthews, this is a crucial time for Caper to shed his instinctive imprint on Ms. Donovan as his mother and accept his new family.

As for now, Caper will undergo the final stages of weaning with a new formula of blended herring.

"Caper had his first fish Friday and within 10 days should be totally weaned," Matthews said.

note pic only in City ed.

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