Live Harp Seal on Harkers Island, NC

Written by Keith_Rittmaster. Posted in Uncategorized


 Last Thursday afternoon (Feb. 24th, 2011) Frank and Peggy Guthrie reported a live seal on the shore near their home on Harkers Island.  Keith drove there right away and found a harp seal (see photo), which eventually entered the water and swam away.  This may be a new species for Carteret County, but interestingly in the past 2 weeks there have been 2 other harp seals photographed in NC – one at Kill Devil Hills and one on Masonboro Island.  Examining the photos carefully, we have determined that these sighting are of 3 different individual harp seals.

   During winter months, sightings of seals on beaches and in waters of North Carolina are becoming increasingly frequent.  North Carolina is considered part of the normal winter range for harbor seals, our most common seal visitor (see photo).  But recently we have seen 3 additional seal species (gray, hooded, and harp seals) in NC, all of which we consider out of their more northern normal range.  Distinguishing individual seal species can be tricky and generally requires experience and/or a good guide book.  Evaluating their health status is an even greater challenge.  Lying on beaches is a normal behavior for seals and they generally don’t need to be rescued.  If a seal is sighted on a beach in Carteret or adjacent counties, please call the NC Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 252-241-5119 so we can confirm the species ID and attempt to evaluate its health.  Please do not attempt to pet or feed the seal as this is illegal and can be dangerous.  Please give them a wide berth and do not crowd, harass, or agitate them.  Please try to respect their beauty without being noticed, enjoy the view, and learn more about seals by visiting http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/pinnipeds/.

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