Seals return to island off the Jersey Shore

Seals resting off Sandy Hook. (Robert Siliato Photography)

Seals resting off Sandy Hook. (Robert Siliato Photography)

Seals have returned to an island off the northern New Jersey coast.

Harbor, grey, and harp seals are typical winter visitors at the Jersey Shore as they swim down from the New England region.

Seals are also common visitors to Sandy Hook and an island off the federal park during the winter, according to a National Park Service guide.

“Seals have a thick blubber layer which, combined with a fur coat, protects them in frigid climates,” the service notes, adding that they “spend most of their lives in the water but come on land to give birth, raise their young and to molt.”

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The Brigantine-based Marine Mammal Stranding Center (MMSC) requests that the public stay at least 150 feet away from the seals, which look cute but will deliver a sharp bite if scared.

The marine mammals will warn anyone who gets too close with a “growl or snort,” or by “scratching with a flipper,” Dean advises, adding that the next defense is to bite “if they cannot get away fast enough.”

NOAA offers a comprehensive seal viewing guide here.

Anyone who spots a seal should call MMSC at 609-266-0538. They’ll dispatch a technician to check on the blubbery visitor. MMSC says the public should not touch or attempt to assist seals in any way, as that’s illegal.

American Littoral Society will host a “seal walk” at Sandy Hook on Saturday, January 25. Details are available here.

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