Migrating seals have returned to Cape shores – 35 times more than the lone seal that stopped last year.
"Last year was very unusual with only one seal," said Suzanne Thurman, executive director of Marine, Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute.
She said a warm winter may have had something to do with the low number of sightings last year.
So far this winter, five seals have come ashore to rest, and 30 have been sighted in the water, said Thurman. Most have been harbor and harp seals.
A young, female seal was named Valentine by rescuers who found her Feb. 15 in South Bethany. Thurman said she showed signs of respiratory illness, so volunteers took her to the National Aquarium in Baltimore for treatment. There, she was diagnosed with pneumonia and kept until she recuperated, Thurman said.
On President's Day, a seal was spotted in Rehoboth Beach and another was seen around that time on Fenwick Island.
Thurman said seal sightings may continue through March and into April as gray seals start their southern migration.
Seals routinely stop along the shore to rest as they make their way south. In order to give them the rest they need for their journey, Thurman said federal law requires people stay 150 feet away from resting animals; dogs should be kept on leashes.
"Seals are wild animals and should not be approached too closely or touched," Thurman said. "Seals can potentially bite and can transmit disease."
Anyone who sees a seal is asked to call MERR at 302-228-5029.