Story at a glance
- A juvenile harbor seal has chosen to live in a freshwater environment about 100 miles up the Hudson River.
- The seal, likely abandoned by his mother as a pup in Maine, has been tracked via an electronic tracking tag since 2019.
- Wildlife officials have called the seal’s behavior “unprecedented.”
A juvenile harbor seal has chosen an unlikely home: the waters of a quiet New York community about 100 miles up the Hudson River.
Officials say the seal was likely abandoned as a pup by his mother in Maine. From there, he was cared for by a rescue center in Connecticut, which released him in Rhode Island in early 2019 with an electronic tracking tag, the Associated Press reported.
Several months later, in August, the seal – known officially as Harbor Seal No. 246 – appeared to have settled further down the Hudson River near the Saugerties Lighthouse in New York, roughly 100 miles upstream from the mouth of the Hudson. According to the lighthouse keeper, Seal 246 remained there for 620 days.
That a harbor seal – a marine mammal – would seek out a freshwater habitat is highly unusual, according to local wildlife officials.
“It is a story like none we have ever heard of … a marine mammal showing such extended affinity and fidelity to freshwater,” Tom Lake, of the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Almanac, told The Daily Freeman Tuesday.
That said, Seal 246’s extended stay in the Hudson River is not out of the ordinary, and harbor seals have long been considered “non-migratory,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Harbor seals typically spend their lives within a 15- to 31-mile radius of where they were born, though there have been some instances where seals have traveled longer distances to hunt for seasonally available food or to give birth.
Wildlife officials were once again left scratching their heads last April, when Seal 246 disappeared from the Saugerties area.
He was later rescued by the New York Marine Rescue Center, which treated Seal 246 for an infection and a skin condition called “seal pox,” which he had contracted after swimming down to Long Island’s Atlantic Beach.
The rescue center released Seal 246 last summer, expecting he would finally swim out to sea.
But in August, the Saugerties Lighthouse keeper reported he had welcomed a friend back to town, after a more than 200 mile journey upstream.
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