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Jersey Town Illegally Pushes Tired, Lost Seal Into Wrong Body of Water


A snow plow driver found a seal wandering in Woodbridge.
Photo credit: Woodbridge Township

The adult harp seal that hauled out on Sixth Avenue in Port Reading, NJ, during the blizzard was lost and just wanted to rest, says Sheila Dean, co-founder of Brigantine’s Marine Mammal Stranding Center. Instead, animal control dragged him back to where he shouldn’t have been–two miles inland, up the Woodbridge River.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act bans anybody without proper training from handling seals. Town workers used what NJ.com describes as “a mouthpiece normally used to capture dogs.” I’m pretty sure what they’re talking about is a noose pole, which could hurt the seal.

The right response would have been to call the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (609) 266-0538 (or, if you are in another state, another agency that’s part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network). They would have come right away to assess the seal, Dean says.

“Because this animal is so far inland, we would have taken him and released him somewhere else,” Dean says. “He’s just a little bit lost and confused and really looking for a spot to rest.”

The location is about two miles up the Woodbridge River from the Arthur Kill, the waterway that separates New Jersey from Staten Island. Trained rescuers would have driven him there (about a mile by car.) Now no one knows where he is.

After swimming all the way from the arctic they like to lay out in the sun and build up their oxygen levels. Not every seal you see on the beach in New Jersey needs your assistance, she says. The area is getting more seals in the winter, so people are going to have to learn to accept them and stop trying to haul them. Two colonies live off the Jersey shore in the winter, one visible from Sandy Hook.

Dean says seals also don’t like people trying to feed them. She’s gone on beaches and found inappropriate gifts like cat food and sushi deposited around seals. When a seal hauled out at Penn’s Landing people bought the befuddled seal expensive sushi at a nearby restaurant, she said. “There was sushi and stuff all over the whole deck.” They only like live food, but that doesn’t mean you should supply it.

“If you throw a fish at a seal he’s going to run away,” says Dean. “He doesn’t know what you’re doing.”

Found a NJ Seal? Call the Marine Mammal Stranding Center (609) 266-0538
Want to See a Seal? Check out AnimalTourism Map

  • CRESLI (Coastal Research and Education Center of Long Island) has seal walks and boat tours on Montauk and a neat map of where you might see seals around Long Island.
  • Seals also visit Sandy Hook in New Jersey from December to March.
  • New York City Audubon has a cruise by a bunch of island on a water taxi.
  • SKSA does kayak tours (wet or dry-suit required) on Long Island.

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