Tag Archives: Harbor Seal

GIANT SEALS SCARED THE BEEJEEZUS OUT OF ME!

While filming the tiny Dovekie as he was blithely bopping along the inner Harbor, dip diving for breakfast and seeming to find plenty to eat, suddenly from directly beneath the Dovekie, two ginromous chocolate brown heads popped up. Almost sea serpent-like, and so completely unexpected! I leapt up and totally ruined the shot, and the little Dovekie was even more startled. He didn’t fly away but ran pell mell across the water about fifteen feet before giving a furtive look back, and then submerging himself.

So there we were face to face, only about twenty feet apart. We spent a good deal of time eyeing each other, several minutes at least, both trying to figure out the other’s next move. Their eyes are so large and expressively beautiful. Down they dove and search as I might, could not spot them again.

There have been plenty of Harbor Seals seen in Gloucester Harbor, but I have never been so close to a Grey Seal, and so delighted to see not one, but two!

The following are a number of ways to tell the difference between a Harbor Seal and a Grey Seal.

Harbor Seals are smaller (5 to 6 feet) than average Grey Seals (6 feet 9 inches long to 8 feet 10 inches long). Bull Grey Seals have been recorded measuring 10 feet 10 inches long!

Harbor Seals have a concave shaped forehead, with a dog-like snout. The head of a Grey Seal is elongated, with a flatter forehead and nose.

Harbor Seal head shape left, Grey Seal head right

Harbor Seals have a heart or V-shaped nostrils. The nostrils of Grey Seals do not meet at the bottom and create more of a W-shape.

Harbor Seal, heart or V-shaped, nostrils

Grey Seal W-shaped nostrils

Grey Seals are not necessarily gray. They are also black and brown. Their spots are more irregular than the spots of a Harbor Seal.

Grey Seals and Harbor Seals are true “earless seals,” which does not mean that they cannot hear but are without external ear flaps.

Dovekie Gloucester Harbor

Just Wow! Pat Morss Shares Photos of Newborn Baby Harp Seal!!! From the Arctic!

Good Morning Gloucester reader Pat Morss shares photos of baby Harp Seals from a trip to the Arctic. Pat writes to GMG’s editor-in-chief Joey Ciaramitaro:

Joey:

We read with interest Kim Smith’s posting of the visiting Harp Seal on Good Morning Gloucester, Saturday evening. Anne-Lise and I had the good fortune of visiting the southernmost breeding area on her map, the pack ice in the outer Gulf of St. Lawrence. The birthing to weaning period is just 3 weeks annually at the end of February and beginning of March. We flew out by helicopter from Les Iles de la Madeleine, and – yes – we followed the strict instructions of our naturalist. We topped off the experience with some dogsledding to wind down.

Best, Pat Morss

WHAT A MAGNIFICENT GIFT TO SEE AND TO SHARE. THANK YOU SO MUCH PAT!

UPDATE ON THE YOUNG HARP SEAL

Very late in the afternoon, just as the sun was setting, the juvenile Harp Seal attempted to head back to sea. He began to scooch and wriggle toward the creek, pausing often to scratch and roll around in the sand. At one point he reversed direction and started back toward the dunes.

As you can see in the last photo of the above gallery that just as do Harbor Seals, Harp Seals have a tail, too.

After a few more false starts he made his way to the water. Before sliding in, he paused at the water’s edge to drink.

Nearly dead low tide, the water was not deep enough to swim. It was painful to watch him splash and undulate along on his belly in the shallows. He seemed to tire quickly and was very undecided about what to do next. We watched as the young seal made his way slowly around a sharp bend in the creek, then held our breaths as he made it all the way to the foot bridge.

But then he suddenly stopped, turned around, and swam back down the creek, nearly the whole length of the creek from where he had come. The young seal seemed confused and it was heartbreaking to see. When I left at sundown he was on the flats in the creek.

Good Harbor Beach resident and Piping Plover monitor Sue W. reports that he is still there at 7:15. We’re hoping he makes it out at low tide, which is at 10:11 tonight.

The young Harp Seal appeared very tired when I left the beach at around 5:30.

Many, many thanks to Jane Goodwin, neighbor and Good Morning Gloucester reader, for alerting us to the Harp Seal.

For turtle, seal, and all mammal strandings, please call NOAA at 866.755.6622. Thank you!

Update to the Update

I checked on the little guy at 5:30 this morning on my way out of town to photograph and didn’t see any sign of him, but it was pitch black. I checked again on my way home, around 11am, still no sign, and there did not appear to be any signs of a skirmish with a coyote. The tide was high and the water was up to the top of the creek bed. It would have been much easier for him to slip into the water last night and head back out to sea.

In response to Facebook comments that the location of the seal should not have been posted publicly: The initial post was shared in the evening, after dark, and would not have been posted if people had not been behaving thoughtfully and kindly toward the seal. I believe it is important for adults and children to share the shore with wildlife, to love and respect a wild creature’s boundaries, not hide the whereabouts of the animal. There are exceptions in the case of at risk endangered and threatened species. ❤

BEAUTIFUL HARP SEAL RESTING TODAY AT GOOD HARBOR BEACH!

A beautiful young Harp Seal spent the better part of the day hauled out between the bank of the Good Harbor Beach creek and the dunes. The seal appeared in good health and was seen resting, stretching, scooching, and sunning. Beach walkers and dog walkers were respectful and kept a safe distance.

Ainsley Smith from NOAA was on the job letting folks know that the seal was okay and that this is perfectly normal seal behavior. Thanks so much to Ainsley and to all the beachgoers today who kept their distance from the Harp Seal. For turtle, seal, and all mammal strandings, please call NOAA at 866.755.6622. Thank you!

I’ve been checking on him periodically throughout the afternoon and will let you know when he makes it back to the water. I hope soon because we know coyotes scavenge the beach at night.

Harp Seals are born  in the Arctic during the late winter. They are born with a lanugo, an extra thick fluffy white coat that keeps them warm on the Arctic ice. During each stage of development, the Harp Seal’s coat has a different appearance. Juveniles have a white coat with widely spaced spots. Every year, the spots move closer together during molting. By the time the Harp Seal reaches adulthood, the coat is silvery gray with a black saddle mark on the back and a black face. See the photo below of a baby and Mom Harp Seal.

A mother harp seal and her pup rest in their icy habitat.

Photo Courtesy National Geographic Kids

WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND A SEAL ON THE BEACH

Do Seals Have Tails?

While photographing the beautiful young Harbor Seal at Brace Cove this week I noticed a large protuberance centered between the seal’s hind flippers. It’s soft fur looked buffy gold in the morning light and it was much easier to see the seal’s anatomical parts than when photographing a darker, more mature seal. I at first thought the prominent knob was its penis, but after googling, discovered, no, it was a tail! However, I can’t find any answers as to what use the tail is employed.

The bulging, rounded cone-shape between the seal’s hind flippers is a tail.

When Harbor Seals are on land their hind flippers are often closed together but this little guy was in a lolling mood. I watched him from my perch, where I was curled up on the rocks for some time, as he stretched, scratched, slept, and yawned.

The Harbor Seal’s V-shaped, or as I like to think of it as heart-shaped, nose nostrils close when underwater.

I think the seal is molting. Harbor Seals molt once a year and the fur of younger seals (up until about three years of age) is more uniform in color.

Harbor Seals, like all phocids, have ear holes, but no external ear flaps.

The Harbor Seal feeds predominantly on fish such as herring, mackerel, hake, salmon, flounder, and cod. They also eat shrimp, squid, clams, crab,  octopus, and crayfish. They swallow prey whole or tear into pieces, and use their back molars to crush shellfish. Typically the seals feed at high tide and rest during low tide. Everyday, the adult Harbor Seal eats approximately five percent of its body weight. 

Its hind flippers propel the seal through water, in a sort of sculling rhythm. True seals, like Harbor Seals, cannot rotate their hind flippers and that is why they scooch along on their bellies when on dry land.

The blunt one- to two-inch claws of the fore flippers are used for grooming and for defense. 

Harbor Seal grooming with its claws.

I went hoping for a beautiful sky and and found both sky and beautiful Harbor Seal.

Harbor Seal at sunrise, Brace Cove

The Good Harbor Beach Harbor Seal: What to do if you find a seal on the beach

With record number of seals washing ashore from several illnesses, I thought now would be a good time to repost my seal PSA. This beautiful juvenile Harbor Seal was found on a foggy morning in midsummer. The seal was beached at the high tide line and its breathing was heavy and labored. It had no interest in returning to the water and needed only to remain at rest.

For the next six hours the seal struggled to survive the world of curious humans.

Learn what to do if you find a seal on the beach.

The phone number for marine mammal wildlife strandings is 866-755-6622.

HAPPY FIRST DAY OF THE NEW YEAR SUNRISE (and one winsome Harbor Seal)!

Not the prettiest of sunsets, though not bad for a chilly January first morning. Initially it looked to be a bust, but the clouds parted a bit and the sun shone brightly through. Happy New Year wishes. I hope the coming year brings you much love, joy, happiness, and peace ❤

Sunrise sequence January 1, 2017new-years-day-sunrise-eastern-point-gloucester-2017-brace-cove-1-copyright-kim-smith

new-years-day-sunrise-eastern-point-gloucester-2017-brace-cove-21-copyright-kim-smithnew-years-day-sunrise-eastern-point-gloucester-2017-brace-cove-seal-1-copyright-kim-smithnew-years-day-sunrise-eastern-point-gloucester-2017-brace-cove-20-copyright-kim-smith

Reflections at Brace Cove and Niles Pond

Brace Cove Haror Seal copyOur plane was delayed 7 hours en route to Cincinnati for Christmas. Fortunately, we were able to stay in contact with the airline from home. My daughter Liv and I went for a walk along the berm dividing Brace Cove and Niles Pond while waiting to leave. As we were looking at the sun setting over Niles Pond, we by chance turned towards Brace Cove and were captivated by the vibrant colors reflected in the windows of the home on the point. Magically a Harbor Seal swam onto the scene and scootched up on the rock and he too, caught the last of the sun’s fleeting light!

Niles Pond sunset

Video: The Good Harbor Seal ~ What to do if you find a seal on the beach

The beautiful juvenile Harbor Seal was found on a foggy morning in midsummer. The seal was beached at the high tide line and its breathing was heavy and labored. It had no interest in returning to the water and needed only to remain at rest.

For the next six hours the seal struggled to survive the world of curious humans.

Learn what to do if you find a seal on the beach.

Written, produced, edited, cinematography, and narration by Kim Smith.

The Good Harbor Beach Seal PSA was created because of the lack of understanding on the part of my my fellow beachgoers on how to mangae a seal encounter. Please help get the word out and please forward the link to friends and neighbors in other communities, whether or not the community is located by the sea. It was the folks from out of town that did not understand that the seal needed simply to be left alone. Thank you!

Although the Good Harbor Seal was not injured, help was needed with the gathering crowd. I called our local police, who in turn sent Lieutenant Roger Thurlow from the Environmental Police. Has anyone had experience with a marine stranding, and if so, is the following the best number to call: Northeast Region Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding and Entanglement Hotline ~ 866-755-6622? I will post your hotline recommendations here.

Technical note–The video was filmed without a tripod because I was afraid the tripod would look like a gun and didn’t want to further stress the seal. After reading more about Harbor Seals, I learned that their big brown eyes are particularly adapted to sight in murky water (i.e. harbor waters), but that their eyesight is not that good on land. In retrospect, I don’t think that the seal would have associated the tripod with a weapon. Also, I filmed at a distance much further away than my camera’s capabilities, which caused much vignetting around the edges of many of the clips. I didn’t want to stand close to the seal and be the filmmaker-who-becomes-part-of-the-problem, and not the solution.

Breaking News: Good Harbor Beach Seal Survives

 

How to Help a Seal on the Beach

Several mornings ago I went for an early morning walk at Good Harbor and discovered this beautiful baby Harbor Seal stranded at the high water mark. Over the next six hours it struggled to survive the world of curious humans. Fortunately, all ended well and the seal returned to the sea. I’ll post a PSA video later in the week because a great many of the beach goers today seemed completely clueless to the fact that stranded baby seals must be left alone. I had to call the environmental police (thank you Lieutenant Roger Thurlow) to prevent this one man from actually touching the seal, despite the fact that the seal’s breathing was obviously very labored and it was terrified. Later in the morning a lifeguard appeared and kept the crowd under control. I asked for her name but the lifeguards have been instructed not to speak to the media. I hope the lifeguard sees this post because I would like to thank her–she did an absolutely awesome job keeping people from getting too close to the seal–and it wasn’t easy.

Good Harbor Beach Harbor Seal ©Kim Smith 2013Click photo to view larger