A seal sighting reported by the National Park Service on North Carolina’s Outer Banks has prompted a warning to tourists: Seals bite.
“In case you didn't know, seals pass through our area during winter months and sometimes haul-out on beaches to rest,” the National Park Service said in a Jan. 19 Facebook post. “If a seal is observed on a beach within Cape Hatteras National Seashore...please stay a safe distance away from seals and do not touch or feed them.”
If one is sighted, the park service asks witnesses to call the Seashore's Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline at 252-216-6892.
A similar warning was issued last year by the town of Nags Head, and it told beach visitors to stay at least 150 feet away.
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The latest seal sighting was a hot topic on Reddit over the weekend, after a photo was posted. It has been viewed more than 7,000 times and drawn dozens of comments.
Seals were reported along the Outer Banks around the same time last year, including social media posts of a pup yawning and stretching while it sunned himself on the sand.
The ocean-going marine mammals come from growing colonies in New England and Canada, it is reported. They’re mostly pups that can’t yet compete with adults in their home waters up north so they head south to forage for fish, experts said.
Typically, seals begin showing up in January from the Virginia line to Ocracoke in Cape Hatteras National Seashore. After traveling hundreds of miles, seals need to rest on the beach to recuperate. Some explore the Albemarle and Currituck Sounds, clambering onto docks and occasionally lounging in the back yards of sound-side homes, it has been reported.
Along with gray and harbor seals, the mix includes occasional harp seals and hooded seals. In spring, the seals go back north.