The yearly blubbery visitors to the Jersey Shore have returned.
Mary Dunham of Shore Shot Images captured the above image of harbor seals relaxing on a sandbar over the weekend off Sandy Hook in Monmouth County.
“36 on the bar and five playing in the water,” she said.
But two seals at Sandy Hook are injured, according to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
“We need to know right away if they come onto the beach. We cannot retrieve them from the island they are on presently,” a posting on the organization’s Facebook page said. “Do not try to get close, as you can scare them back into the water.”
Anyone who spots a possibly injured or sick seal is asked to call the Marine Mammal Stranding Center’s 24-hour hotline at 609-266-0538 or visit http://www.mmsc.org/strandings/report-a-stranding.
Seals are common visitors to Sandy Hook 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.”
Marine mammals are federally protected. Over the last decade, the seal population has grown dramatically in Sandy Hook, according to the service.
People must stay 100 feet away from seals, who are carnivores with sharp teeth, the service advises.