What To Do When You See A Seal In Delaware


harbor seal,delaware, sussex county, merr, indian river inlet, iri, inland bays
Harbor Seal at Indian River Inlet today

Seals migrate to Delaware every winter and their numbers are increasing.  Last year many may remember there were seven of them at one point hanging out at Masseys Landing feeding on fish in the ditch and sunning on the marsh bank across from the fishing pier.  The past couple weeks seals have been seen on the beaches, one was rescued by the Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation Institute (MERR) that was stuck alongside route 1 near the bridge.  Linda Nasko who works for Delaware State Parks, saw a harbor seal in the marina at the Indian River Inlet just relaxing and napping under the docks.  I was down there and took a couple of pictures and video, then I contacted Suzanne Thurman at MERR.  The seal was fine, but MERR likes to keep tabs on our winter visitors to make sure they are okay and just to keep up with the numbers.

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Seal on the beach last year in Bethany Beach .. photo by John Peterson

When seals pull up on the docks in the inland bays, for the most part they are just resting and chilling.  When they pull up on beaches that is usually the same case, but sometimes they are stressed or sick.  It is best to not approach them and to stay at least 150 feet away.  When they come up on a beach they may have been avoiding a predator, which happen to be sharks.  Scaring the seal back into the water could put it at risk.  If they are sick they will pull up on a beach so they do not drown, after all they are mammals that breathe air.  Stressingout the sick seal can scare them off and cause them to perish.  Last year a rescued seal didn’t last twelve hours after it was rescued, it was very sick and weak.  So if you see a seal, do not approach it, and contact MERR at 302 228 5029 immediately.  It is preferred to leave a text message with any details, a location, and time of day.  MERR is very timely  responding to any alert of all stranded mammals.  Pictures are nice too, but do not approach the seal use the zoom on your camera.  Some of the charters and head boats in Lewes will do tours to go see the seals that hang out around the haystacks or ice breakers in the Delaware Bay at the harbor of safe refuge.  You can usually see grey and harbor seals on the rocks out there.

Fish On!!

Rich King

Harbor Seal at IRI today

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