WOW AND QUADRUPLE WOW! GLOUCESTER’S PAT MORSS SHARES PHOTOS OF NEWBORN BABY HARP SEAL!!! FROM THE ARCTIC!

Pat writes:

Joey:

We read with interest Kim Smith’s posting of the visiting Harp Seal on Good Morning Gloucester, Saturday evening. Anne-Lise and I had the good fortune of visiting the southernmost breeding area on her map, the pack ice in the outer Gulf of St. Lawrence. The birthing to weaning period is just 3 weeks annually at the end of February and beginning of March. We flew out by helicopter from Les Iles de la Madeleine, and – yes – we followed the strict instructions of our naturalist. We topped off the experience with some dogsledding to wind down.

Best, Pat Morss

What a magnificent gift to see and to share. Thank you so much Pat!

UPDATE ON THE YOUNG HARP SEAL

Very late in the afternoon, just as the sun was setting, the juvenile Harp Seal attempted to head back to sea. He began to scooch and wriggle toward the creek, pausing often to scratch and roll around in the sand. At one point he reversed direction and started back toward the dunes.

Just like Harbor Seals, Harp Seals have a tail, too.

After a few more false starts he made his way to the water. Before sliding in, he paused at the water’s edge to drink.

Nearly dead low tide, the water was not deep enough to swim. It was painful to watch him splash and undulate along on his belly in the shallows. He seemed to tire quickly and was very undecided about what to do next. We watched as the young seal made his way slowly around a sharp bend in the creek, then held our breaths as he made it all the way to the foot bridge.

But then he suddenly stopped, turned around, and swam back down the creek, nearly the whole length of the creek from where he had come. The young seal seemed confused and it was heartbreaking to see. When I left at sundown he was on the flats in the creek.

Good Harbor Beach resident and Piping Plover monitor Sue W. reports that he is still there at 7:15. We’re hoping he makes it out at low tide, which is at 10:11 tonight.

The young Harp Seal appeared very tired when I left the beach at around 5:30.

Many, many thanks to Jane Goodwin, neighbor and Good Morning Gloucester reader, for alerting us to the Harp Seal.

For turtle, seal, and all mammal strandings, please call NOAA at 866.755.6622. Thank you!

Update to the Update

I checked on the little guy at 5:30 this morning on my way out of town to photograph and didn’t see any sign of him, but it was pitch black. I checked again on my way home, around 11am, still no sign, and there did not appear to be any signs of a skirmish with a coyote. The tide was high and the water was up to the top of the creek bed. It would have been much easier for him to slip into the water last night and head back out to sea.

In response to Facebook comments that the location of the seal should not have been posted publicly: The initial post was shared in the evening, after dark, and would not have been posted if people had not been behaving thoughtfully and kindly toward the seal. I believe it is important for adults and children to share the shore with wildlife, to love and respect a wild creature’s boundaries, not hide the whereabouts of the animal. There are exceptions in the case of at risk endangered and threatened species. ❤

BEAUTIFUL HARP SEAL RESTING TODAY AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

A beautiful young Harp Seal spent the better part of the day hauled out between the bank of the Good Harbor Beach creek and the dunes. The seal appeared in good health and was seen resting, stretching, scooching, and sunning. Beach walkers and dog walkers were respectful and kept a safe distance.

Ainsley Smith from NOAA was on the job letting folks know that the seal was okay and that this is perfectly normal seal behavior. Thanks so much to Ainsley and to all the beachgoers today who kept their distance from the Harp Seal. For turtle, seal, and all mammal strandings, please call NOAA at 866.755.6622. Thank you!

I’ve been checking on him periodically throughout the afternoon and will let you know when he makes it back to the water. I hope soon because we know coyotes scavenge the beach at night.

Harp Seals are born during the late winter months in the Arctic. They are born with a lanugo, an extra thick fluffy white coat that keeps them warm on the Arctic ice. During each stage of development, the Harp Seal’s coat has a different appearance. Juveniles have a white coat with widely spaced spots. Every year, the spots move closer together during molting. By the time the Harp Seal reaches adulthood, the coat is silvery gray with a black saddle mark on the back and a black face. See the photo below of a baby and Mom Harp Seal.

Photo Courtesy National Geographic Kids

Harp Seal Breeding Grounds

What to Do if You Find a Seal on the Beach

DO SEALS HAVE TAILS?

While photographing the beautiful young Harbor Seal at Brace Cove this week I noticed a large protuberance centered between the seal’s hind flippers. It’s soft fur looked buffy gold in the morning light and it was much easier to see the seal’s anatomical parts than when photographing a darker, more mature seal. I at first thought the prominent knob was its penis, but after googling, discovered, no, it was a tail! However, I can’t find any answers as to what use the tail is employed. 

The bulging, rounded cone-shape between the seal’s hind flippers is a tail.

When Harbor Seals are on land their hind flippers are often closed together but this little guy was in a lolling mood. I watched him from my perch, where I was curled up on the rocks for some time, as he stretched, scratched, slept, and yawned.

The Harbor Seal’s V-shaped, or as I like to think of it as heart-shaped, nose nostrils close when underwater.

I think the seal is molting. Harbor Seals molt once a year and the fur of younger seals (up until about three years of age) is more uniform in color.

Harbor Seals, like all phocids, have ear holes, but no external ear flaps.

The Harbor Seal feeds predominantly on fish such as herring, mackerel, hake, salmon, flounder, and cod. They also eat shrimp, squid, clams, crab,  octopus, and crayfish. They swallow prey whole or tear into pieces, and use their back molars to crush shellfish. Typically the seals feed at high tide and rest during low tide. Everyday, the adult Harbor Seal eats approximately five percent of its body weight. 

Its hind flippers propel the seal through water, in a sort of sculling rhythm. True seals, like Harbor Seals, cannot rotate their hind flippers and that is why they scooch along on their bellies when on dry land.

The blunt one- to two-inch claws of the fore flippers are used for grooming and for defense. 


Harbor Seal grooming with its claws.

I went hoping for a beautiful sky and and found both sky and beautiful Harbor Seal.

Harbor Seal at sunrise, Brace Cove

POOR LITTLE BABY SEAL AT NILES BEACH

The little seal pup was seen today washed ashore at Niles Beach. He couldn’t have been more than three feet in length. From Maine to Massachusetts, more than six hundred dead or dying Gray and Harbor Seals have been reported this summer.

Two Humpback Whales washed ashore on Massachusetts beaches in a single day, one on Little Brewster Island in Boston Harbor and one on Revere Beach. The Revere Beach Humpback is the same whale that was spotted off Gloucester several weeks ago. Last week, two dead Minke Whales were found floating in the waters off Gloucester and Sea Bright, New Jersey. Another Minke Whale washed ashore in Rye, New Hampshire earlier this past week.

Seal Pup at Niles Beach

Read more about why the seals are dying here.

Two dead humpback whales wash up in Revere and near Boston Light

2016-2018 Humpback Whale Unusual Mortality Event along the Atlantic Coast

SEAL SUCCESSFULLY RETURNS TO THE WATER, ALL ON ITS OWN!

Walking along a sandy beach this morning I looked up to see in the distance a Harbor Seal hauled out at the water’s edge. I took a few photos, and then slowly walked backwards, towards the wrack line, in the opposite direction of the seal. After about half an hour, the seal fishtailed down to the water and was quickly lost in the surf.

This is the second Harbor Seal in two days that I have seen resting on the beach. The sea has been rough and tides lower than usual, but for whatever reason this apparently healthy seal was hauled out on the sand, the very most important thing we humans can do to help the seals is to keep your distance.

 

HAPPY FIRST DAY OF THE NEW YEAR SUNRISE (and one winsome Harbor Seal)!

Not the prettiest of sunsets, though not bad for a chilly January first morning. Initially it looked to be a bust, but the clouds parted a bit and the sun shone brightly through. Happy New Year wishes. I hope the coming year brings you much love, joy, happiness, and peace

Sunrise sequence January 1, 2017

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GMG Update for Marine Mammal Response From Mendy Garron

Dear Good Morning Gloucester Community:

We know people were concerned and had questions about the harbor seal that was at Good Harbor Beach over the weekend.  I wanted to take this opportunity to remind people of what they should do if they see an animal that may need assistance.

October 4, 2014 injured seal

Donna Ardizzoni Injured Seal photo Oct 4, 2014 Good Harbor Beach Taken With Telephoto Lens

Up until this year, the protocol was to call the New England Aquarium.  The Aquarium served as the NOAA authorized responder for the Northshore area for many years.  On January 1st, the Aquarium refocused their response effort to sea turtle rehabilitation and the study of infectious disease in marine mammals. As a result they had to scale back their response area for stranded marine mammals and now are focusing their efforts on the area from Salem to Plymouth.  

Over the last year, NOAA Fisheries has been seeking an alternate organization to help us fill this void on the Northshore, which includes Cape Ann. Until an alternate organization is identified and authorized to help us, we ask that all stranding calls be reported to our offices.

Our program oversees the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program from Maine to Virginia.  Unfortunately, we do not have the capacity to respond to every animal in the field and do not have the legal ability to authorize individual volunteers to respond to these cases.  As a result, marine mammal stranding cases in Gloucester will be handled on a case-by-case basis.  When needed, we will seek help from other authorized stranding response agencies, but their ability to help will be limited and based on their available resources. 

I would like to ask the Gloucester community to spread the word about the current status of response to stranded marine mammals and remind one another to be responsible viewers of wildlife by:

– Staying a safe distance of at least 150 feet from animals on the beach or hauled out;

– Do not let dogs approach seals or other marine wildlife.  Marine mammals do carry diseases that can be transmitted to your pets, and vise versa;

– Do not touch or feed the animal.

Remember, seals are wild animals.  Medical treatment of these animals is significantly different from domestic and terrestrial animals.  We have to consider a variety of factors when making a decision about how best to respond to an animal on the beach including individual animal health and potential risks to humans and pets, the overall health of the species’ population , and how intervening may affect the natural ecosystem. Seals and other marine mammal species are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

I would like to thank the Gloucester Police Department and the Massachusetts Environmental Police for their assistance in maintaining a safe viewing distance for this animal while it was resting on the beach.  The seal did go back into the water on its own Saturday evening and no further reports have been received.

More information about the National Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Response Program can be found at the following website:

http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/health/stranding.htm–

Mendy Garron, CVT
Marine Mammal Response Coordinator
Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office

NOAA Fisheries

MARINE ANIMAL HOTLINE: 866-755-NOAA (6622)

VIDEO PSA: THE GOOD HARBOR SEAL ~ WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A SEAL ON THE BEACH

The beautiful juvenile Harbor Seal was found on a foggy morning in midsummer. The seal was beached at the high tide line and its breathing was heavy and labored. It had no interest in returning to the water and needed only to remain at rest.

For the next six hours the seal struggled to survive the world of curious humans.

Learn what to do if you find a seal on the beach.

The two agencies listed below have in my experience been helpful:

Massachusetts Environmental Police: 508-753-0603

Northeast Region Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding and Entanglement Hotline: 866-755-6622

Reposted from August 14th. See original post here.

 

Reflections at Brace Cove and Niles Pond

Brace Cove Haror Seal copy

Our plane was delayed 7 hours en route to Cincinnati for Christmas. Fortunately, we were able to stay in contact with the airline from home. My daughter Liv and I went for a walk along the berm dividing Brace Cove and Niles Pond while waiting to leave. As we were looking at the sun setting over Niles Pond, we by chance turned towards Brace Cove and were captivated by the vibrant colors reflected in the windows of the home on the point. Magically a Harbor Seal swam onto the scene and scootched up on the rock and he too, caught the last of the sun’s fleeting light!

Niles Pond sunsetNiles Pond December Sunset

Pod of Harbor Seals at Brace Cove

Harbor Seals Brace Cove Gloucester MA ©Kim Smith 2013Click image to view larger

This morning at Brace Cove there was a pod of Harbor Seals sunning themselves; unfortunately a little too far out of range for my movie camera, but I tried filming nonetheless. They were wonderful fun to observe especially as the younger members of the pod seemed more interested in playing “King of the Rock,” rather than basking in the sun. It was challenging to figure out a total number because the younger seals were so playful, but I think there were ten in the herd. I only know this from one of the snapshots where you can see ten in all. Because the Harbor Seals were out of my camera’s ability to sharply focus, the footage may be too grainy, but I will try working with it.

In case you are wondering, as did I, a goup of seals is most commonly referred to as a pod or colony. The terms harem, herd, and rookery are also used, depending upon from where you originate.

I can only hope the young Harbor Seal hauled out at Good Harbor Beach earlier this summer has a pod to which it belongs!

Video: The Good Harbor Seal ~ What to do if you find a seal on the beach

The beautiful juvenile Harbor Seal was found on a foggy morning in midsummer. The seal was beached at the high tide line and its breathing was heavy and labored. It had no interest in returning to the water and needed only to remain at rest.

For the next six hours the seal struggled to survive the world of curious humans.

Learn what to do if you find a seal on the beach.

Written, produced, edited, cinematography, and narration by Kim Smith.

The Good Harbor Beach Seal PSA was created because of the lack of understanding on the part of my fellow beachgoers on how to mangae a seal encounter. Please help get the word out and please forward the link to friends and neighbors in other communities, whether or not the community is located by the sea. It was the folks from out of town that did not understand that the seal needed simply to be left alone. Thank you!

Although the Good Harbor Seal was not injured, help was needed with the gathering crowd. I called our local police, who in turn sent Lieutenant Roger Thurlow from the Environmental Police. Has anyone had experience with a marine stranding, and if so, is the following the best number to call: Northeast Region Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding and Entanglement Hotline ~ 866-755-6622? I will post your hotline recommendations here.

Technical note–The video was filmed without a tripod because I was afraid the tripod would look like a gun and didn’t want to further stress the seal. After reading more about Harbor Seals, I learned that their big brown eyes are particularly adapted to sight in murky water (i.e. harbor waters), but that their eyesight is not that good on land. In retrospect, I don’t think that the seal would have associated the tripod with a weapon. Also, I filmed at a distance much further away than my camera’s capabilities, which caused much vignetting around the edges of many of the clips. I didn’t want to stand close to the seal and be the filmmaker-who-becomes-part-of-the-problem, and not the solution.

Breaking News: Good Harbor Beach Seal Survives

 

Breaking News: Good Harbor Beach Baby Harbor Seal Survives

This morning I went for an early morning walk at Good Harbor and discovered this beautiful baby Harbor Seal stranded at the high water mark. Over the next six hours it struggled to survive the world of curious humans. Fortunately, all ended well and the seal was returned to the sea. I’ll post a PSA video later in the week because a great many of the beach goers today seemed completely clueless to the fact that stranded baby seals must be left alone. I had to call the environmental police (thank you Lieutenant Roger Thurlow) to prevent this one man from actually touching the seal, despite the fact that the seal’s breathing was obviously very labored and it was terrified. Later in the morning a lifeguard appeared and kept the crowd under control. I asked for her name but the lifeguards have been instructed not to speak to the media. I hope the lifeguard sees this post because I would like to thank her–she did an absolutely awesome job keeping people from getting too close to the seal–and it wasn’t easy.

Good Harbor Beach Harbor Seal ©Kim Smith 2013

Good Harbor Beach Stranded Harbor Seal

Harbor Seal Pupping Fact Sheet From Mendy Garron and a Contest from our Friends at Fort Point

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There’s a harbor seal photo contest at Fort Point Pier In Boston

Click the title of the post below for the details and please keep in mind the pupping fact sheet sent in below (most importantly be sure to try to take the photos with a long lens if photographing a pup)-

1st Annual Harbor Seal Sighting Contest

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As shown in our rendering below, we’re predicting that harbor seals will find a sunny respite from Harbor waters on the dock at Fort Point Pier. Over the past decade, harbor seal sightings in Fort Point Channel have been increasing in regularity.