Stranded seal pup on track for return to wild waters

The baby seal that wandered the streets of Riverside on Sunday morning appears to be in good health and could be released into the wild within a week, according to officials from the New York Marine Rescue Center.

On Monday, the male seal estimated to be around three months old and weighing nearly 50 pounds, basked in a ray of sunshine at the organization’s animal hospital and growled at anyone who dared disturb his nap. The marine mammal receives plenty of herring at the facility, housed at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, and undergoes veterinary evaluation. If all goes well, he will soon be tagged and released to live a more familiar pinniped life.

Rescuers believe the gray seal was following migrating alewife – a species of herring common in waters off Long Island – up the Peconic River for Sunday breakfast when it scaled a man-made fish passage and s is found on dry land. Onlookers who spotted the seal where it shouldn’t be – waddling through car parks and a busy roundabout – called Southampton Town Police who were able to confine the puzzled pup until officials arrived from the rescue center.

Young wild marine animals, like most young of any species, are inherently curious and can sometimes be found roaming the streets, said marine center director Maxine Montello.

“These guys are so curious at this age and they often hang out in particular areas,” she said Monday. “’Outside habitat’ is the term we like to use. But we have rescued seals in people’s gardens, under people’s vehicles. »

The seals look cuddle-worthy with their fur coats and puppy eyes, but Montello warned a stressed animal can bite. Instead, it is recommended to stay 150 feet back and report a seal sighting to the center hotline at 631-369-9829.

“Because they’re so cute, everyone wants to get close to them,” Montello said.

“They’re going to hurt each other,” she said of curious people who get too close to an equally curious but untamed seal. “They are wild animals.”

Ali Temiz, manager of a Shell petrol station next to the roundabout, said it was obvious to him to stay back when he approached the seal on Sunday morning.

Temiz said he walked out of the station because a woman had parked her car in the road with the hazard lights on. He soon realized that it wasn’t the driver who needed help, but the seal, lying face down in the store’s parking lot. The animal rebuffed Temiz’s attempt to guide it to safety.

“I tried to help, but it attacked me,” Temiz said on Monday. “I backed up.”

Temiz, who initially thought the seal had escaped from the nearby Long Island Aquarium, called 911.

Southampton City cops surrounded the seal and then, as the police service described it in a press release, “detained” it until help arrived.

“They did what police officers do,” department spokeswoman Lt. Susan Ralph said Monday of cops rushing to serve as something akin to seal whisperers. “They used their tactics to box him in and kind of talk to him to keep him calm.”

Representatives of the marine center said the marine animals should only be rescued with professional assistance. That’s what happened to “Sweetbriar”, another gray seal pup that someone mistook for a river otter in February. The animal was brought to the Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown, hence its name, and staff called the rescue center. He is now at the facility recovering from an attack of conjunctivitis.

“As the weather improves, we have this overlap between humans and seals,” Montello said. “It’s so important to give them their space.”

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