Want To See A Seal? Some Look No Farther Than Their Own Backyard

By: Morgan Reitzel, Follow South Jersey Intern

Seal pup that made it into a neighborhood in Brick on February 27. Photo credit: Marine Mammal Stranding Center Facebook page.

BRIGANTINE, N.J. – It’s seal season! According to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, seals flock to South Jersey to escape the harsh winter weather in Canada and Northeastern U.S. November through April. 

On February 12 the stranding center responded to a call for a seal pup lying in the middle of the 4×4 entrance to the North End of Brigantine. It had minor injuries and is recovering at the Stranding Center. Photo credit: Marine Mammal Stranding Center Facebook page.

On Feb. 27 a female gray seal pup was trying to cross RT. 35 and was helped by officers from the Brick Township Police Department to safely cross the road. Then the seal entered a homeowners backyard on Ocean Ave. and remained there until a Stranding Technician from Marine Mammal Stranding Center arrived. 

Fortunately, after the 36lb seal was brought back to center for an examination and an overnight observation, the adorable seal appeared healthy. The seal had no signs of injury, illness, or need for rehabilitation. A great sight for many, the seal pup was released into the ocean the next morning. 

Strangely enough, it is not abnormal for gray seal pups to take a wrong turn and end up in residential areas. The Marine Mammal Stranding Center says there is typically one case every seal season that a seal ends up away from the ocean. Due to the fact that the gray seal pups are normally born on islands, it is their instinct to wander until they find the next body of water. 

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center, located in Brigantine, “is dedicated to responding to marine mammals and sea turtles in distress along all of New Jersey’s waterways and to the rehabilitation of these animals for release back into the wild,” according to their website. When sea mammals and sea turtles are unable to be released into the wild, the facility offers these animals care. 

Since the non-profit center opened in 1978 started by Robert Schoelkopf and Sheila Dean, the team has responded to over 5,870 strandings and sees 100-200 animals in an average year. 

Because the Marine Mammal Stranding Center is a working rehabilitation hospital, it is not open to the public, but there is a museum. The museum is open on Saturday 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and changes seasonally so make sure to check their website for the hours of operations before going! 

The Sea Life Museum is free and open to the public. The museum displays marine mammal artifacts for educational purposes with life size replicas of marine mammals, turtles and fish. Additionally, outside of the museum guests can look at the “Bone Garden” exhibit and the Observation Tank in the summer months topping the center off with a gift shop. While guests are unable to attend the hospital portion of the facility, there is a screening of the rehabilitation facility inside the museum. 

There are ways to help out the animals that end up at the center. Supporters can go to the Marine Mammal Stranding Center website where they can adopt a seal, get donation cards for a special event, or give a one time donation. 

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