For the past ten years or so an increasing number of seals, mainly harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), have been seen spending their winters in Long Island Sound. They migrate down from their breeding grounds in Canada and Maine, arrive along our shores in December, and remain until March. Harbor seals can grow to about 5 or 6 feet long, and weigh from 175 to 225 pounds, the males being slightly larger. Their fur is gray or silver with dark spots. They feed mainly on fish, squid, crabs and lobster, and can stay underwater for as long as 28 minutes.

Juvenile harbor seal. Caleb Slemmons, National Ecological Observatory Network,

Seals will haul out onto exposed rocks at low tide, lounging about in groups. Sometimes, though, an adult female will leave her pup on a shoreline beach while she feeds underwater. Upon finding such a pup, well-meaning humans believe it is injured or abandoned and requires their help. Unfortunately, more harm than good often results from such a “rescue.” If you spot seals in Long Island Sound this winter, enjoy them from a distance. Since they are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, it is illegal for anyone to harass them, and only licensed experts are allowed to handle them. If you truly believe you have found an animal that requires help, call the experts at the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium or the Mystic Marinelife Aquarium.

Cindi Kobak

During the winter watch seals hauled out on the rocks surrounding Falkner Island off the Guilford coast on Menunkatuck’s live streaming video feed.