Winter Seals on the Beach

We were out in Chatham the other day and decided to take a walk on South Beach. The air was clear, it was relatively windless and warm, for winter anyway. We saw something shiny in the distance. From the shape and position I suspected it was a seal….and it was!
Seals often haul out onto a beach in the winter. Most are perfectly healthy and all should be left alone, according to the Marine Mammal Protection Act. These pictures were taken with a zoom lens and although there are what appear to be close ups I was well within the distance of 150 yards mandated by the law.
Seals look cute but they are wild animals and will give a nasty bite if approached by humans or dogs. Most seals you will see on the winter beaches are perfectly healthy and fine and need no intervention by humans. If you see a seal that is obviously in distress or injured you should contact the Cape Cod Stranding Network. Do not try to help the animal yourself. You may reach the stranding network by calling 508-743-9548. This number is manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I believe this seal was a harbor seal. It had the heart shaped nose, was the right size and color and looks like a snub nosed cocker spaniel from the side, all visual indicators of harbor seals. In the summer our predominant seals are the gray seals but in the winter we get quite a few harbor seals as well as other rarer visitors such as harp seals.
I love this shot because it looks like the seal is smiling and enjoying its day in the sun. Do seals smile? Scientists would probably frown upon the idea but for the rest of us….maybe they do. I know this seal made me smile….

Looking for Otters

Saturday morning was clear and sunny and very, very cold. A group of us met over at the Skunknett River conservation area where Ian Ives from Audubon was having a program about otters and owls.The pond was very quiet and mostly iced over. A few raggedy cattails were still standing and chickadees called from the bushes nearby but no otters….
We stopped at various spots along the river but no otters….
Though we did see lots of otter scat (droppings) at several “pull out” spots along the way…
Otter scat has a lot of fish scales in it so it is easy to identify. You can see it here as the gray stuff against the brown leaves. Who knew you’d be looking at a picture of scat instead of an ottter?

Oh well! That’s the way it is a lot when you go out looking for animals in the wild. You find signs of where they’ve been and what they leave behind them but often they themselves are in hiding. I often like to think of them watching me from behind a bush, laughing at me. Who knows? Maybe they are.
It was so cold on this day I think the otters were home snug in their dens.