The director of a marine animal rescue group is calling for a new seal rehabilitation center in Maine, citing the stranded harbor seal pup that drew crowds to Portland’s Back Cove this week before it had to be euthanized because of a respiratory issue.

“We need a facility in Maine. I would hate to see that there wasn’t something in place for spring and summer next year,” said Lynda Doughty, the executive director of Marine Mammals of Maine, a nonprofit based in Boothbay.

The University of New England’s rehabilitation center closed in June because of funding cuts and a need to put resources into degree-granting programs. The center had rehabilitated more than 1,100 marine animals since 2001, including seals, sea turtles and porpoises. Students worked at the center as part of work-study programs, but it was not part of the curriculum.

UNE’s facility was the only rehab center for seals in Maine and could handle up to 25 animals at a time. But with each seal the center rehabbed costing $3,000 to $5,000, the university couldn’t afford to continue its support. Marine Mammals of Maine, which has about 60 volunteers from Kittery to Rockland, took most of the animals it rescued to the Biddeford facility.

May and June were usually the center’s busiest months and the closure has been devastating for Doughty’s organization. Seals give birth in late spring or early summer, and they often have to leave their pups on beaches to find food. Mothers sometimes die in the process or, when people or dogs get too close to the baby seals, get scared and abandon their young.

Since the facility closed, Doughty said they have monitored about 30 to 35 animals that normally would have been brought to the rehab facility. Even if the center had been open, it’s not a given that the pup found in the Back Cove would have survived.

“I can’t guarantee that the animal would have made it, but it would have been given a shot,” Doughty said.

The nonprofit has brought about 16 seals to the Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut – a four-hour drive that most injured seals cannot survive.

“We still need to be able to stabilize them in order (for them) to be transferred,” Doughty said.

Janelle Schuh, the stranding coordinator in Mystic, said the closure of the UNE rehabilitation center has doubled her aquarium’s usual workload. The center has housed 18 seals this year when in previous years it took in eight to 12.

“We’re here to help out, but we have some capacity strains,” Schuh said, singling out finances and staffing.

On average, a seal stays three to five months at a cost of about $3,000, but that can reach $20,000 depending on the severity of the animal’s condition and the treatment it needs.

There is another rehabilitation center in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, where Doughty’s group has taken a few seals, but it’s even smaller.

Marine Mammals of Maine is researching what it takes to open a facility, she said, noting that it would require an involved federal permitting process and capital that the nonprofit doesn’t have.

“We are interested,” Doughty said. “But there are obstacles we have to overcome.”

Without a rehab center nearby, Doughty and her volunteers have had to watch stranded seals for longer periods before taking them in for rehabilitation.

“Even when there was a center in Maine we had to make tough choices,” she said.

If beachgoers see a seal on land they should call the hotline at (800) 532-9551 and stay at least 150 feet away, Doughty said.

Seals aren’t the only problem for the nonprofit. A 19-foot pilot whale was stranded on Popham Beach on Tuesday and eventually died.

Marine Mammals of Maine normally would have brought the whale’s remains to a composting site at UNE’s facility, but they are without that as well.

“We just don’t want to be in this position next year,” Doughty said.