A young harbor seal was spotted and photographed by a first aid squad volunteer in the waterway just off Broadway and Route 35 in Point Beach.
Jerry Meaney, longtime member of the Point Pleasant Emergency and Rescue Squad, and former squad captain, spotted the seal in Wills Hole, the Ocean County park on Broadway across from the 7-11, early Monday morning.
Meaney, who also volunteers for the Marine Mammal Stranding Center in Brigantine, said he's been spotting seals in Point Beach for years, but it seems like the sightings have become more common.
"It seems like I'm seeing them more than ever before, but they always visited our area," Meaney said. "They swim up the rivers and rest on the boat docks and beaches. This winter was pretty good for them. Last year we had a lot of sick and injured. We would go and babysit until they went back out or had to be picked up."
Meaney warned that residents and visitors should always stay away from seals.
"Despite that they look cute, they are really dangerous," he cautioned, adding that someone in the Bay Head/Mantoloking area got bit by a seal last year.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Center website includes a warning not to go near any stranded marine mammals.
However, as Meaney noted, the same warning is valid for any marine mammal, regardless of whether they are stranded or injured.
"While the sight of a helpless animal wounded or dying on the beach can be touchingly painful, and provoke feelings of frustration or 'the need to help,' please be aware that in the United States it is illegal for anyone without a scientific permit to handle a marine mammal," the web site says.
"All animals, injured or stressed, can be dangerous. Although seals appear to be harmless, they have sharp teeth and claws and can inflict a very nasty bite. They often carry viruses that can be transmitted to humans. To avoid serious injury or possible infection, stay clear of any stranded animal."
The volunteer Point Pleasant First Aid and Emergency Squad serves Point Beach, Bay Head and Mantoloking.