On Tuesday morning, NJMC staffer Angelo Urato was working at River Barge Park. Around 8:30 a.m., he noticed something large on the rowing dock. He got out his binoculars and saw that it was a Harbor Seal. (Thanks, Angelo!)
The seal stayed until just before noon, when it swam off — possibly because a large truck pulled into the park. It has not been seen since, and the river has gotten much choppier.
We took a photo of the seal and e-mailed it to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine so we could get their input. Here’s what Robert Schoelkopf, the center’s founding director, had to say.
NJMC: The Meadowlands Commission currently has what looks to be a Harbor Seal on one of our docks at River Barge Park in Carlstadt, and we just sent e-mailed you a photo. What can you tell us about it?
It’s a male Harbor Seal, and it looks to be in good shape.
What’s it’s doing here?
It just swam up the river?
Seals are all over New Jersey now. We’ve had a mild winter now, so they’re in pretty good shape. Of the dozen or two seal sightings we’ve had this year, we only have four of them in house [being treated] right now.
More photos (including a zoom), the rest of the interview, and a link to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center follow.
Are they usually in the Atlantic?
Yep. They come down here in the winter time, following the food, and then they get down here and wait for the herring and mackerel runs to head up into the rivers, and they follow it up.
Is it unusual to see a Harbor Seal?
It may be unusual for you, but not for us. Just look at it this way, they gave the Meadowlands their seal of approval.
Is it OK to tell folks about the seal, or keep this quiet until it leaves of its own accord?
Wait until it leaves. We do have people around who will shoot them even though the seals are federally protected and it’s illegal to do. But people will take adavntage of an animal that’s here by itself and there’s no boats or anything around. You never know.
Anything else we should know about Harbor Seals?
They bite. So you definitely don’t want anyone to approach them or go down on the dock with a dog or a baby or anything like that. Just keep your distance.
They spend their mornings eating. They haul out just to replenish their blood supply because they use the oxygen in their blood while they’re diving for food.
After he’s rested up and had enough food, or the fish move on, he’ll move on with them.
The link to Marine Mammal Stranding Center is here.
Note: Half the seal's body appears darker, according to the MMSC, because the fur hasn't dried.