Juvenile Harp Seal on Peggotty Beach (And what to do if you find one, too!)

Hannah Carle, Elizabeth Davidson, Julia Gates, and Julia Pasini

As the polar vortex swept over the South Shore and enveloped Scituate in bone-chilling cold single digits, we decided to check out what was going on at Peggotty Beach. Upon our arrival, a blubbery ocean friend, who appeared to be embraced by the cold, was spotted basking on the beach. With the face of a cute puppy, we immediately sympathized with this seal, and we began to investigate.

The seal was about 50 yards up from the shoreline. It was alone and surrounded by the cold sand.  Tempted to approach the seal, we grew closer in proximity, which aroused it from its relaxed state and it became snappy. The seal seemed to be protecting itself.

Our first response was to call the Scituate police department so they could tell us how to keep the seal safe. The non-emergency Scituate Police Department line (1-781-545-1212) directed us to the New England Aquarium phone number. After a slur of automated messages from the aquarium, we left a message with the seal spotting hotline and informed them about the situation on Peggotty Beach.

We promptly received a call back from someone at the New England Aquarium, asking if we could send a photo of the seal to her so she could identify it. Minutes later, she sent a text back, explaining it was a juvenile harp seal. She gave us instructions that also appear on the New England Aquarium website, saying, “Note its location, size, behavior, or obvious injuries. Take pictures without approaching too close.”

The website also emphasizes, “If the animal appears in distress or is being harassed, call the marine animal rescue team in your area or the animal control officer of the town. If on beaches from Plymouth to Salem, call the New England Aquarium’s stranding hotline at 617-973-5427.”

Our contact at the New England Aquarium noted it was a positive sign that the seal was up and alert. She explained that the fluid coming out of its eyes was a sign of hydration. She cautioned us never to touch any sea life at the beach.

SHS senior Anthony Spinella, a student in Mr. Maguire’s Oceanography class, reiterated this advice. He said, “Never touch a seal because there are bacteria that can spread from sea life to humans, which can be quite dangerous.”

So, if you happen to stumble upon sea life on any of the beaches in Scituate, you shouldn’t touch it, but don’t hesitate to reach out to the New England Aquarium!