Motorists find seal stranded on Route 1 near Delaware beaches
Motorists on Route 1 near the Delaware Seashore State Park spotted something amiss on Monday morning: a harbor seal stranded on the shoulder.
The Marine Education Environmental Institute, with help from the Dewey Beach Police Department, rescued the female harbor seal. The MERR Institute's executive director Suzanne Thurman says the seal was in good health, but the closest beach was not an ideal location to release the animal.
“The beaches were virtually nonexistent and the waves were still quite big, which is intimidating for a little seal to enter the water under those conditions," said Thurman. "So we drove her up to the bay, at The Point in Cape Henlopen. It was perfect. She went into water, the water was nice and calm and she swam on out towards The Point.”
Thurman says it’s possible the storm pushed the seal this far ashore. If it came from northern New England or Canada, it may have become exhausted from trying to navigate in stormy waters.
She also added that it’s common for seals to be sighted on docks, beaches or in creeks in Delaware at this time of the year. But she advises that people keep their distance if they see one.
“Since the seal is trying to rest and has no experience with humans, it can be very stressful so people should not approach them for the well being of the seal and themselves," said Thurman. "There’s also a federal law that protects these animals, that they need to be undisturbed. So people need to keep a minimum of 300 feet from the seal.”
Thurman advises that anyone who spots a seal to report it immediately to the MERR Institute at (302) 228-5029. This is so they can assess if the health of the animal, in case it needs help.
She says the institute typically receives between 100 to 200 calls about seal sightings every winter.