Winter-weary residents found some unexpected companions Saturday when they went to South Jersey beaches to enjoy the sunny weather.
Grey seals came out in force, taking advantage of a recent stretch of calm seas to sun themselves on shore, said Robert Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
“All of these animals are just month-old grey seals hauling themselves out of the surf to get some sun,” he said.
None of the seals that arrived in Atlantic City, Avalon, Long Beach Island and Ventnor were in distress. But Schoelkopf said the crowds of people they attracted meant the center had a busy day relocating them to uninhabited areas.
More seals will likely appear in the coming days due to the calm seas and warm temperatures. People should observe the animals from a distance and report sightings to the stranding center.
In Atlantic City, the seal that washed up near Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort was surrounded by about 20 gawkers, including workers from a nearby construction site who sat around and took pictures of the animal.
“It’s a problem for whoever’s paying them and a problem for the seal,” Schoelkopf said, adding that people should keep their distance from any wild animal.
While the seals themselves are in no danger, he said, they have been known to bite people who come too close. If that happens, the seal must be held in quarantine — taking up valuable resources and space at the shelter — until the human receives a clean bill of health.
“It is a health hazard if they’re bitten,” he said. “The animals are healthy, for the most part — it’s the people who are interfering with (them).”
Saturday also saw a dead harbor porpoise wash up in Margate.
Schoelkopf said that animal likely died after becoming tangled in fishing net. A necropsy will be performed at the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in Kennett Square, Pa.
Usually, the dead animals are found by fishermen and the corpses thrown overboard, he said. But it would be helpful if the fishermen instead reported the incident to the center, as there’s nothing illegal about such deaths.
“If they called us, we’d pick up the animal from them to learn more about the history of the animal,” he said.
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