• How to Enjoy Watching Seals Safely

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    Every summer, grey seals haul out during low tides to rest and bath on sandbars off Truro in the National Seashore, while harbor seals and grey seals can be found around Chatham, especially Monomoy.

    Here are some critical tips from the National Park Service to enjoy these wonderful creatures, but in a way that is safe for you and them.

    Never get in the water with seals. Seals are large wild animals and can be extremely danger. If they feel threatened, they may become aggressive in order to defend themselves.

    Never attempt to feed seals. Feeding seals is against the law and you could be seriously injured; you could be arrested and/or fined. Food that is not a normal part of their diet will do more harm than good by impeding their ability to hunt and locate food on their own – or by encouraging seals to approach boats looking for handouts, which can result in injuries from boat propellers.

    Always stay at least 50 yards – 150- feet from resting seals. Seals that are continually being approached never get a chance to rest. Repeated interaction can exhaust seals, leaving them vulnerable to predation and illness.

    Be quiet. Noise may affect seal behavior

    Limit your viewing time to no longer than 30 minutes. Your continued presence can cause the animal unnecessary stress.

    Keep pets on a leash. Inquisitive dogs are likely to startle a resting seal, causing an aggressive, defensive response that might injure your pet or the seal.
    Kayaks and canoes should avoid approaching to haul-out sites. These engineless craft have been shown to elicit an alarm response, causing seals to rapidly enter the water.


    Reports of seals entangled in fishing gear, bait bags and plastic debris such as ring Frisbees are on the rise. When seals get entangled, they may be unable to feed or defend themselves against predators. These entanglements can cause the animal to suffer and ultimately die.

    Did you know this about seals at The National Seashore?

    • Chances are the seal you will see at the National Seashore is a gray seal. Sometimes, you may discover a harbor seal. Rarely will you see either a hooded or harp seal.
    • Gray seals have the scientific name Halichoerus grypus.
    • Males are characteristically larger than females and average between 660 and 770 pounds. They will measure 7 to 8 feet in length.
    • Females will average 6 and a half feet and weigh between 330 and 450 pounds
    • Males coloration typically is darker than the female’s. Males are dark brown, gray or black, with smaller, lighter spots.
    • Females have a tan or light gray background with darker spots.
    • Whether male or female, their most distinctive feature is their head, which resembles a horse because of its long, straight slope of a profile.
    • Gray seals are born from mid-December to early February, usually on islands in Penobscot Bay and Frenchman Bay in Maine or Muskeget, Tuckernuck and Monomoy Islands in Nantucket Sound.
    • Mothers nurse their pups for about 16 days and will temporarily leave them during long foraging trips.
    • Infrequently along the National Seashore, you may discover a harbor seal. They are smaller than grays – about 4 to 5 feet long and about 250 pounds.
    • Harbor seals range in color from dark gray to tan, overlaid with leopard-like spots. They have small heads,, very large eyes and a face that resembles a cocker spaniel.
    • Harbor seals often rest on their side in a banana shape, and may be more commonly found on shore.

    If you see a seal stranded or entangled, please call for help: The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) at 508-743-9548.

    April 12, 2014