It was found malnourished and lethargic, but this furry, tired-looking baby seal is now on the mend in Riverhead.
The pup had first been sighted Monday by a passerby on a Hampton Bays beach and was initially monitored by The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.
But on Tuesday, a foundation biologist and two interns went back to assess the tiny animal, which was found behind Quantuck Beach Club on Dune Road. The mammal, which is still covered in a downy fur from birth, was so underfed they decided to bring him to the organization’s hospital facility located at the Long Island Aquarium.
The pup, which was identified as a 1-month-old gray seal, was brought back to the Riverhead facility yesterday afternoon.
“What they’ll do from there is monitor him, check his blood levels and make sure he’s hydrated,” explained Rachel Bosworth, public information officer for the Riverhead Foundation. “He was underweight, so they’ll come up with a plan for that.”
Biologists will certainly be curious to find out how the young animal came to be swimming in our waters.
“Usually gray seal pups are born much farther north, so it’s interesting to see them down here,” Bosworth said. “Gray seals are seen down here, but as far as pupping seals, they’re usually farther north.”
As of now, it’s unclear whether this is the same pup that was sighted last month on Ponquogue Beach. According to the Riverhead Foundation, there have been several seal pup sightings this winter in Westhampton Beach, Southampton and Montauk. All of those pups appeared to be in good condition and were left on the beach for monitoring.
The public should stay at least 150 feet from these federally protected animals at all times, biologists say. These are wild animals and human interaction can be detrimental to them when they’re young.
Gray seal pups nurse for 17 to 18 days before they begin to fend for themselves, living off their blubber reservoir, according to the Riverhead Foundation. They begin to feed in the ocean about one to four weeks after weaning. Gray seal pups enjoy hauling out onto the beach and can commonly be found lying or sunning themselves among the dunes or even behind rocks and debris. Well-known gray seal haul-out sites include Little Gull Island, Montauk and Plum Island.
The Riverhead Foundation warns that gray seal pups will hiss or grunt when they feel threatened (such as when a person or animal comes to close to them. They will also lunge outward and make a display with their flippers that may resemble waving, but is actually meant to show their claws.
Gray seals can be found on Long Island beaches between the months of February and June.
If you spot a stranded marine animal, call the Riverhead Foundation at (631) 369-9829.