BELMAR, NJ — A baby harp seal came ashore on the Belmar beach yesterday, February 17, and has returned to the ocean waters on its own.

Meanwhile, a baby gray seal rescued on February 6 along the beachfront by the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) and transported to its Brigantine-based facility has died, according to center spokesperson Sheila Dean. The female sea was suffering from lacerations and malnutrition when it was rescued — underweight at only 32 pounds.

The seal was among five recovered since January 19 along New Jersey waters that are now receiving care at the center, the only federally authorized animal hospital for the rescue of marine mammals and sea turtles in the state.

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According MMSC, there has been unusually high number of strandings and deaths of harbor and gray seals along the East Coast since last summer. It cites a recent National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration study that shows there have been nearly 1,680 strandings from Main to Virginia since last July, including 22 along New Jersey’s shoreline.

Tests on deceased seals have found that many have died from the phocine distemper virus, which cannot be transferred to humans, but it may still be able to affect pets, NOAA said in its report.

MMSC, which is now part of the investigation, strongly encourages the public not to touch any seals they encounter and to keep all pets away from them as well.

Baby seals are not as cute and friendly as they look, and they can bite. That’s why it’s important to stay at least 50 yards from a resting pup. Plus, it’s against federal regulations to touch them.

Harbor and gray seals can be found in New Jersey waters through the early spring, when pups can typically be seen along the shoreline following the birthing season. They feed on small fish in the shallow waters and then come ashore to replenish their oxygen supply before returning to the waters, according to the MMSC.

Anyone who witnesses a seal that is distressed or may need help is asked to call their local police department or the stranding center on its 24-hour hotline at 609-266-0538.

Rescuing Marine Animals Along New Jersey’s 1,800 Miles of Coastline

Marine Mammal Stranding Center is a nonprofit organization that has responded to more than 5,100 strandings of whales, dolphins, seals and sea turtles that have washed ashore, for over 40 years throughout New Jersey.

For more information about the Brigantine-based center, including becoming a member, adopting a seal or learning of other ways to contribute to its mission to release, rehabilitate and release these animals, click here.

See video below for a look into its efforts.


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