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This Week’s Creature Feature: Ocean City’s Cold-Weather Beachgoers

Seals come by ocean for a lie on the sand
      In the middle of the winter, tired seals haul out of the ocean, beaching at Ocean City to rest and warm up. Mother harbor seals and pups lay together, or the pups alone while the mother waits offshore.
      Four types of fish-eating seals are common along Maryland beaches. The most common is the harbor seal. Harbor seals are large, almost 300 pounds, and mostly gray with occasional dark spots. Their heads are sleek and nose slightly pointed.
      Gray seals are much larger than the harbor seal, weighing up to 600 pounds. They are also gray but have a nose so large that they are also known as horsehead seals.
      Harp seals are about the same size as harbor seals but with a more rounded face and very dark eyes. These are the seals that give birth on the Arctic ice and are hunted for their fur. They also seem to get into more trouble along the Maryland coast than other seal species.
      Hooded seals, largest of our seal visitors, occasionally venture south to Maryland.
      I have not seen any reports of any seals showing up yet. When they do arrive on the beach, they must be given a wide berth. Do not approach them. They are tired and need rest. 
      Seals are closely monitored for illness and stress. If you see one that appears injured or ill, call the Marine Education, Research and Rehabilitation Institute: 302-228-5029; Or Maryland Stranding Response Program 800-628-9944.