A rite of spring; harp seal visits downtown Riverhead

04/08/2011 4:51 PM |


For the second year in a row, a seal found its way into downtown Riverhead via the Peconic River.

The adult seal was spotted downtown Friday morning near the western end just before the Peconic Avenue bridge.

Julika Wocial, Rescue Program Ssupervisor for Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, checked it out the seal and said it was displaying normal seal behavior swimming and diving. It did not appear to be sick or otherwise in distress.

A juvenile harbor seal visited downtown Riverhead late last March, when it dazzled spectators who watched it play and catch fish in Grangebel Park’s then-newly completed fish ramp.

The below story appeared in the News-Review last April 1.

Park pup gets Riverhead Town’s seal of approval


A small harbor seal was spotted in the Peconic River for a few days last week, something experts say is a rare sight.

The seal, which onlookers said was playfully swimming around and eating fish in Grangebel Park last Tuesday through Thursday, seemed healthy and did not appear to be in danger, according to biologists with the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

Kim Durham, the foundation’s rescue coordinator, said the animal looked small for a harbor seal, and most likely was a pup.

The seal was feeding on alewives near a recently installed fish ramp, which allows the fish to migrate upriver to spawn beyond the dam near Peconic Avenue.

“If there is an area that has food, they will come in,” Ms. Durham said of the seals.

The seal was first spotted about 10 a.m. Tuesday morning by construction workers in the park, just west of Peconic Avenue in downtown Riverhead.

One of the workers, Mike Jones, said the seal appeared to be in good spirits.

It was even putting on a show while people took its photo Wednesday afternoon, he said.

“He was eating fish and spinning around in circles,” Mr. Jones said. “He was having fun.”

Ms. Durham said another harbor seal was spotted in the same area about a month ago, but closer to Peconic Bay. She could not say whether or not it was the same animal.

The baby seal got an official welcome from the Town Board members last week as well.

“Pennsylvania has Punxsutawney Phil and we here in Riverhead have Peconic Pete, or Patricia,” said Supervisor Sean Walter.

“We urge the Peconic seal to think about relocating permanently to Riverhead,” added Councilman John Dunleavy. “It is a great place to raise a family, with a growing downtown, great communities and friendly people.”

The seal must not have heard Mr. Dunleavy’s call, however, as there have been no reported sightings since last Thursday.

“He hasn’t been back,” said Mr. Jones.

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