Hello Fellow Readers,
Interactions with wildlife can bring a tear to my eye… the wonder of it all. On April 23rd, while walking along Island Beach State Park NJ with canine kid Ellie, we spied a fisherman with what looked a dog. I should preface that Ellie is a rescue who still suffers from anxiety and fear of other dogs. As we began to walk around the fisherman, he pointed to his dog. To our surprise, it was a seal pup and Ellie was not fearful but curious as were we.
Seals, or pinnipeds meaning “fin footed”, are commonly called sea dogs and after meeting this little fella its clear why. He looked like a playful puppy showing off by arching his back and flipping around to watch a truck as it passed by. He squeezed his nose with his fin in a playful moment; or maybe he was clearing his ears from being deep at sea. “He doesn’t move too fast,” the fisherman said who was minding his tackle when the little guy crawled next to him.
I suspect our finned friend was a harbor seal pup with his silvery-grey fir that glistened in the sun. They range from grey to brownish black or black and are usually spotted. Males grow to five feet and 250 pounds. Females 150 to 200 pounds. Harbor seals can swim as soon as they are born and depend on their mother’s milk for three to six months, then head out on their own to live up to 25 years.
Technically we were standing too close; though the seal chose to park himself accordingly. Its advised to stay at least fifty yards away. Seals can be dangerous when approached; there bite more severe than that of a pit bull. Mary worrywart wondered if the pup was injured or lost, though he looked well nourished. They normally hunker down in small groups called colonies in haul-out sites where they rest, warm themselves and escape predators like sharks and people. Later I learned the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine NJ recently released five baby seals that likely came from colonies in Massachusetts and Maine they nursed back to health. I wonder if the fisherman’s pup was one of them, explaining his trust of humans.
That afternoon we checked on the pup whose fisherman was gone and replaced by a NJ State Park official sitting vigil in a truck equipped with a bull horn who I coined as Seal Security. “Stay away from the seal, stay away from the seal” Seal Security announced to horse riders passing by. Sound asleep he looked like driftwood that washed ashore. We chatted with the official who said he’s there to keep people away. “The seal knows what he’s doing. He’s here to warm up.” Seals swim south to feed on fish heading north after winter.
Should you come across fawn or other babies in your garden, keep your distance. Don’t interfere. Rather, marvel over the miracles of Mother Nature. She knows what she is doing. Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com