Hello, Dollie! - Gray seal makes a splash on Rehoboth Beach

April 27, 2021

I walked out of my gallery in Penny Lane, Sean Kelley Art & Friends, on the afternoon of April 10 to get some fresh air and stopped by T-Shirt World on Rehoboth Avenue to say hello to my friends Andrea and Tony.

After our initial greeting, Tony immediately asked, “Have you seen the seal?” I replied, “What seal?” His eyes got big and he explained there was a big seal, right out front on the main beach, “Go get your camera!” So I ran out to the main beach to a full-on crowd of about 400 people. I couldn’t believe it. I had never seen a seal on Rehoboth Beach ever. Let alone a seal with so much personality. He was flirting with the crowd, rolling over, propping himself up on one side a la Burt Reynolds’ centerfold pose – what a ham! Every little movement he made was greeted with an ooh and aah from the crowd. Little kids, teens, grandparents were all getting a kick out of the seal’s antics; it was like the zoo had come to Rehoboth Beach.

Volunteers from The MERR Institute did a great job of keeping the crowd back and answering questions about the seal. One brave volunteer even prevented an excited woman from trying to pet the seal. Seals will bite to protect themselves, so MERR recommends staying back 150 feet in all directions and keeping dogs on a leash.

The MERR Institute is a nonprofit animal protection organization that has been in Lewes for 20 years. MERR stands for Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation. According to Suzanne Thurman, executive director, this male gray seal “is resting, thoroughly enjoying himself and in the last phase of his life.” She estimated that he was 30 years old, and the typical gray seal’s max life span is 35. He was 5 to 6 feet in length and weighed about 600 lbs. The seal, who I nicknamed Dollie, was spotted in a three-week period from Cape May, N.J., to Cape Henlopen, Rehoboth Beach, and Dewey Beach. All of these photos were taken of Dollie April 10 on Rehoboth’s main beach.

MERR is on call 24/7 to provide emergency response to stranded whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea turtles, both living and dead, wherever they occur in Delaware. MERR’s trained team of responders provides veterinary care for ill and injured marine animals, alleviating suffering and helping them to get the care they need to heal and recover.

If you observe a sea animal stranded or in distress, call the MERR Institute at 302-228-5029. For more information, go to

To view and/or purchase Dollie photos and other examples of my work, go to or visit my gallery in Penny Lane, Sean Kelley Art & Friends, at 42 Rehoboth Ave. #4, Rehoboth Beach.  

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