The purpose of wildlife rehabilitation is to release animals that will integrate behaviorally, survive and ultimately reproduce. While rehabilitation of threatened or endangered species has been more widely accepted as a management tool, rehabilitation of non-endangered wildlife species has remained controversial due to concerns that the population benefits are negligible, especially in light of limited post-release survival data. Due to the cost and logistics associated with post-release monitoring of rehabilitated wildlife, data are rarely collected on the post-release survival, behavior and ultimate breeding success of rehabilitated wild animals. This further compounds our ability to determine the long term behavior and survival of rehabilitated wildlife.
Despite the controversy, the general public has long demanded attention be paid to stranded marine mammals and effort has been put into perfecting the husbandry and veterinary tools needed to rehabilitate and release stranded marine mammals. Post-release studies of rehabilitated animals provide an opportunity to evaluate the efficacy of care and veterinary treatment of seals during rehabilitation. They also permit us to examine the potential population benefits of rehabilitation. Very few studies have been conducted evaluating the post-release movement and survival of seals. Examples of studies conducted in France and various parts of the United States are reviewed.