SPRING LAKE, NJ — In neighboring Spring Lake, a baby seal made its way onto the beach near the north end pavilion early this afternoon.
Photographer Nancy Orlowski discovered the harbor seal pup near the jetty situated just south of the pavilion on Ocean Avenue at Ludlow Avenue.
The seal’s Presidents Day appearance on February 19 comes one day after a whale was spotted off the Belmar beach near Ocean and Fifth Avenues, as well as less than a week after two whales were seen in the same vicinity on Valentine’s Day. And on Groundhog Day on February 1, a baby seal was discovered by Belmar public works employees on the jet-ski dock at the Belmar Marina.
Harbor seals can be found in New Jersey waters from December through March, with the early spring being the time 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 Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Atlantic County.
These pups are extremely precocious and can swim almost immediately after birth, according to the Brigantine-based-center, which responds to marine mammals and sea turtles in distress along New Jersey’s waterways and rehabilitates them for release back into the wild.
During the first week of life, these pups often ride on their mothers' back while they swim. But as they are weaned in about 30 days and as the waters get warmer, the young seals are quickly on their own and will begin to migrate north to cooler waters.
While baby seals appear to be cute and friendly, officials warn they are wild animals and can bite. That’s why seal-sighters should stay at least 50 yards from a resting pup. It’s also against federal regulations to touch them.
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.