Five rehabilitated seals are now back home after being released into the Sandy Hook Bay Wednesday afternoon.
They were released by the Brigantine-based Marine Mammal Stranding Center amid a surge of baby seals arriving on New Jersey beaches.
Consequently, the center, which relies entirely on donations, has seen an increase of seals under its care, approaching capacity last week.
Harbor, grey, and harp seals are typical winter visitors at the Jersey Shore as they swim down from the New England region. Chasing Jersey’s Brian Donohue reported that the seals have become more common because of cleaner water and increasing fish populations.
This year’s arrival was later than usual, and some found on beaches were suffering from injuries or malnourishment.
The marine mammals will warn anyone who gets too close with a “growl or snort” or by “scratching with a flipper,” center officials say, adding that the next defense is to bite “if they cannot get away fast enough.”
While the seals may look cold while shivering on the beach, that’s just part of their fur drying mechanism.
Seals have thick blubber layers under their skin, and they lay on their side and rock back and forth to get comfortable. The seals also put their front and rear flippers in the air to stretch and warm themselves.
Anyone who spots a seal should stay at least 50 yards away and call MMSC at 609-266-0538. They’ll dispatch a technician to check on the blubbery visitor.