Baby Seal Found in a Traffic Circle on Long Island Released Back Into the Ocean

The three-month-old gray seal had wandered through streets and parking lots until it was captured by a local nonprofit, rehabilitated and released

A seal on the sand
Peconic, a 3-month-old gray seal, makes his way back to the ocean. Brianne Ledda for Riverhead News-Review

A 3-month-old gray seal pup found ambling through a traffic circle on Long Island was released back into the ocean last week after being rescued by a local nonprofit.

The pup, named “Peconic” after a nearby river, had taken a sightseeing jaunt through Riverhead, New York, waddling to a gas station, through the parking lot of a liquor store, across another street and into shrubs growing at a nearby hotel. 

“These animals start wandering up the beach paths and end up kind of in human territory,” Maxine Montello, rescue program director for the non-profit New York Marine Rescue Center (NYMRC), tells Riverhead News-Review’s Grant Parpan. “So we do see it happen quite a lot. We’ve picked up these little gray seals in people’s backyards, near roadsides, they’ve traveled pretty far, you know, several miles at one time. So it’s not too abnormal.”

Officials think the pup swam out of the bay and into the Peconic River while chasing after some migrating fish, per CBS New York’s Jennifer McLogan. Southampton Town dispatchers received a call at about 6:30 a.m. from someone who spotted the wayward creature. 

"We handle deer calls mostly, loose horses, maybe a couple sheep, but never a seal," Southampton Town Police Lieutenant Susan Ralph tells CBS.

"When we did hear the call, we were like this cannot be true," Ralph tells News12. “He traveled pretty far, and he was actually rather quick.” 

Police called NYMRC, and workers corralled Peconic into a carrier to bring him back to the rehabilitation center. They determined the animal was a three-month-old male gray seal weighing about 50 pounds. He was given fluids and a full exam and was later approved for release by the senior veterinarian, per 27East.   

Gray seals live an average of 25 years in the wild. Adult males are about 7.5 feet long and can weigh more than 750 pounds. 

These animals are federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which “prohibits the ‘take’ of marine mammals—including harassment, hunting, capturing, collecting, or killing—in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Importing and exporting marine mammals and their parts or products is also prohibited. 

Both people and pets should stay at least 150 feet away from seals, NOAA states. 

Peconic was fitted with a tracker so workers can see whether he migrates naturally after his escapade, reports CBS. After about a week of recovery, NYMRC released him on a beach on Long Island, where he scooted across the sand and disappeared into the waves. 

“This is the best part of the job, to get these animals back home to the ocean,” Montello says to News12. “That’s our goal.”