As temperatures continue to drop here in Maryland and along the East Coast, migrating seals are making their way back to our shores!
This seal was spotted near 28th street in Ocean City, Maryland! Photo via Maryland Coastal Bays Program
Seals are semi-aquatic (which means they like to spend part of the time in the water and part of the time on land). They will typically spend multiple days swimming south, only to haul out on beaches, rocks or docks to rest. Seals will also haul out on exceptionally stormy or sunny days – this gives them a chance to wait out the stormy seas or soak up some warm sun, depending on the weather.
If you’re lucky enough to see a seal on the beach in Maryland, it’s best to give the animal lots of space (at least 100 feet of distance) and stay downwind, if possible. By all means, enjoy watching the seals and take plenty of pictures, but please do not disturb them – they have had a long commute from the north.
Furthermore, disturbing the animal by making it change locations or flee back into the water is against the law. Seals are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
A healthy, resting seal will typically be seen in a "banana position" on their side with their head or rear flippers in the air (see photo below). A seal that is entangled in marine debris or has physical wounds will often be resting flat on its stomach and may need medical attention.
If you see a seal that may be in need of medical attention, please call the National Aquarium’s Stranding Hotline at 410-373-0083, or the Natural Resources Police at 1-800-628-9944.