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 like 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 are known as Sea Dogs.
Seals, or pinnipeds meaning “fin-footed,” are commonly called sea dogs, and after meeting this little fellow, it’s 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 silvery-grey fur that glistened in the sun. They range from grey to brownish black or black and often sport spots. Males grow to five feet and 250 pounds. Females are 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.
Why the Seal Pup may have trusted the Fisherman
Technically we were standing too close, though the seal chose to park himself accordingly. It would be best if you stayed at least fifty yards away. Seals can be dangerous when approached; their bite is more severe than a pit bull. Mary worrywart wondered if the pup was injured or lost, though he looked well nourished. They usually 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 in humans.
Seal Pup Security
That afternoon we checked on the pup whose fisherman was gone and replaced by a New Jersey State Park official sitting vigil in a truck equipped with a bull horn which 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 was 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.
Keep your distance if you encounter fawn or other babies in your garden. Don’t interfere. Rather, marvel over the miracles of Mother Nature. She knows what she is doing. Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com
Column updated 6/3/23