Flanders Traffic Circle Seal Returned to the Sea

The traffic circle seal looked back at his rescuers after being returned to the Atlantic
The traffic circle seal looked back at his rescuers after being returned to the Atlantic
Rick Seigleman

The wayward gray seal pup that got itself turned around in a Flanders traffic circle last weekend was released Friday back into the Atlantic Ocean after being evaluated by local marine biologists.

Experts at the Riverhead-based New York Marine Rescue Center said that while it was unusual for a seal to be found on a major roadway, the species’ curiosity does result in several unique rescues annually.

“Every year we have a couple seals that wind up in what we call ‘out-of-habitat areas,’” said Maxine Montello of the rescue center while releasing the seal at Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays. “We already had a seal under a vehicle right here in this parking lot, we’ve had seals in peoples’ backyards, we’ve had seals on train tracks. So this species is known to get in a little bit of trouble.”

NYMRC releases Peconic the gray seal at Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays
NYMRC releases Peconic the gray seal at Tiana Beach in Hampton BaysRick Seigleman

She said when the 3-month-old seal climbed out of the Peconic River via a fish ladder and wandered into the nearby traffic circle, it was likely looking to rest. Rescuers named the seal Peconic.

“I think that they’re just looking for a place to haul out and they just keep on going,” she said. “I’m sure they’re looking for a little spot to hide, maybe a traffic circle is not ideal. But they usually find their way back.”

New York Marine Rescue Center team released Peconic the gray seal on Friday, April 8
New York Marine Rescue Center team released Peconic the gray seal on Friday, April 8Rick Seigleman

She added that their inquisitive nature can also result in seals getting tangled in fishing gear while looking for food. In this seal’s case, the pup will grow to be between 700 and 900 pounds and have a lifespan of 22–25 years.

The rescuers chose Tiana Beach to release the pup so he doesn’t get stuck in the bay and has easy access to the seals’ northern migration route.

“He hasn’t been in saltwater in a couple of days and so he was super excited to get back into that water,” she said. “Naturally, we don’t often see them again, they head into that ocean and travel up north, and that’s kind of the end of our job … I hope that he has a long life and can make other gray babies out there.”

Cops found a gray seal pup in Riverhead on Sunday.
Cops found Peconic the gray seal pup in Riverhead on Sunday, April 3.

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