It was unclear immediately if the animal was sick, wounded or just taking a breather, but officials were preparing this morning to take it to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine for evaluation.
“Our team sent us some photos of the seal and it looks like it has a little bit of blood around its mouth,’ [center co-director Sheila] Dean said. “We’re going to bring it here and look it over briefly. If it doesn’t need any rehab we’ll release it into a colony in the area.”
The Sandy Hook beaching is the fifth in the last two days, Dean said. Other seals have come ashore in Wildwood, Cliffwood Beach and Brigantine, she said.
“Now that it’s really cold, it’s not that unusual for these animals to come out of the water and lay on a beach to replenish their oxygen supply,” Dean said. “We’ll probably see more of them.”
The mammals often become objects of curiosity when they come ashore, Dean said, and that can create problems.
“People and people with dogs try to approach them and sometimes they get scared and bite,’ she said. “They’re animals and they’ll try to protect themselves.”
Because of curious onlookers, rescue personnel will often try and shoo the seals back into the water when they have no apparent injuries, Dean said.
“It’s not the preferred way, but sometimes that’s what we have to do,” Dean said.
Volunteers are trained to look at the animals for marks of injury and then photograph the mammal’s eyes and transmit those photographs to the Brigantine-based stranding center, she added. Those assessments are how decisions are made on whether or not a transport unit will respond, she said.
Rangers were standing by with the sea mammal for “its own protection,” Brian Feeney, a spokesman for the National Park Service, told the Press.
“They’re really rather common in this area, but people just don’t expect to see them in the waterways around New York City,” Feeney said.