The seal that dazzled beachgoers between Bay Head and Island Beach State Park Tuesday was just released from rehabilitation at the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC), according to a representative of the Brigantine-based organization.
The gray female seal is about seven months old and can survive on her own, said Sheila Dean, who operates MMSC with her husband, Robert Schoelkopf.
The seal stranded twice in New Jersey during July, according to Dean.
“The first time we saw her at Island Beach State Park in early July we had to remove a fish hook from her mouth. The second time she was ashore was in Sea Isle City, where we found her coughing,” Dean said.
MMSC then took the marine mammal in for rehabilitation due to infections and released her in Sandy Hook on Monday after she gained over 20 pounds in five weeks.
“We have volunteers monitoring her travels, and hope that she returns to northern waters where she belongs,” Dean said. “She is tagged with a yellow rear flipper tag, which was placed on her when she was in rehab in Long Island, NY. We are only permitted to release seals back into the waters of the state they stranded in.”
But while the seal is a compelling sight, the public is asked to keep its distance.
“Please know that marine mammals are protected by federal law. No closer than 50 feet please, and do not try to swim out to her,” Dean warned.
“She does bite.”