HAMPTON BAYS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A recently born gray seal pup that came ashore on Long Island Monday has marine biologists asking some questions.
The 4-week-old seal was discovered by the Riverhead Foundation on Ponquogue Beach in Hamptons Bay.
As CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported, marine biologists quickly determined it’s best to leave the pup alone, for fear of stressing it out.
“If they come up and do what seals normally would, which is sun themselves and just try to rest, we don’t wan to interfere in their behavior,” said Rob Digiovanni, with the Riverhead Foundation.
On Twitter, the Riverhead Foundation asked beachgoers to remain 50 yards away from the seal at all times as per federal law and for the seal’s safety.
The big mystery, however, is how the very young seal wound up on this particular beach when normally their breeding grounds are much further north.
“The pupping area for them right now, one that’s been monitored extensively is off Nantucket,” said Digiovanni.
Digiovanni believes it’s too far of a distance from Nantucket for the baby seal to have traveled, so now the search is on for evidence their breeding grounds have moved closer, Brennan reported.
“The evidence that we would really need to say an animal is being pupped here is to see the animal being born,” explained Digiovanni.
Despite the frigid conditions, the mystery of where the baby seal came from drew local Laurie Anderson to do her own search.
“I’ve been here my whole life and I’ve never seen a seal on any of these beaches,” she said.
“We’re going there and look to see if we can see any of its tracks or see if it’s still in the area,” said Digiovanni.
Using binoculars, Digiovanni searched for the baby seal, but concluded it likely returned to the sea with high tide, Brennan reported. He said he hopes locals will keep looking, but cautions against getting too close.
“It’s against the law for you to get closer than 50 yards of these animals,” he said. “We definitely encourage the public to stay back, don’t get close to them, don’t take photos.”
Instead, Digiovanni suggested residents call the 24-hour hotline for the Riverhead Foundation at 631-369-9829, and you may just help them solve where this seal pup came from.