The Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation Institute Inc. (MERR) is reminding beachgoers and boaters that seals are once again in the area. Delaware has four different species of seals that visit area waterways during the winter months and can often be seen resting and sunning themselves on rocks, docks, beaches and other landing areas throughout Delaware, they noted.
According to MERR, it is normal for seals to haul out of the water to rest. Anyone who sights a seal is asked to keep a minimum distance of 150 to 300 feet from the animal, and keep dogs on a leash, so that the seal can rest undisturbed.
Do not approach the seal or attempt to feed it or otherwise interact with the animal, they emphasized, as that will only cause undue stress to the seal and may force it to go back into the water before it is ready. Seals are wild animals and can bite if they feel threatened, MERR representatives noted. They can also transmit disease through direct contact.
“The best thing to do for the seal is to keep a distance and report sightings to MERR at the 24-hour stranding reporting hotline at (302) 228-5029,” they said. “The stranding specialists from MERR will evaluate the seal for any signs of injury or illness, and will provide rescue if needed. In the case of a healthy resting seal, MERR will set up a watch throughout the day to help the seal to rest undisturbed.”
They added that reports from the public are very useful in helping to document the presence of seals in Delaware waters and in helping the MERR stranding team to provide rescue for those seals that need veterinary treatment.
For more information, visit the MERR website at www.merrinstitute.org