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Montauk Point State Park
Guided Seal Hikes

SEAL OBSERVATION WALKS

Join Mike Bottini on a 3 mile (round trip) hike to view seals and learn about their habits, behavior, and population trends in the Long Island region. Dress warm and wear comfortable hiking shoes; we will be outdoors for 2.5 hours. Binoculars recommended but not necessary. Mike will bring a spotting scope that everyone will get a chance to use. This program is sponsored by New York State Parks, and is scheduled to coincide with low tide, when seals are most likely to be basking on the rocks.
Meet at the Montauk Point concession area.
FEE: $5/person ($3 for children) plus a $6 vehicle parking fee.
Call 631-668-5000 for reservations and additional information.

Seals on Long Island

During the cooler months, some special visitors from the north come to Long Island starting in mid-November.  They return to Northern New England and Canada in May.  Seals belonging to the Pinniped family (meaning “feather footed” or “winged”), are true seals which lack external earflaps, have torpedo shaped bodies for fast swimming.  They have long, sharp claws to help them dig into the ice while climbing out of the water or onto the beach.  Unlike sea lions, their front flippers are short and they are referred to as “earless” seals.  Their hind flippers are webbed and pointed backwards to help them swim.  They have been recorded swimming over 12 miles per hour and have been spotted swimming 70 miles off of the coast of Long Island.

Seals haul out of the water to rest, sleep, and warm up in the sun’s heat.  While on land sunning themselves, they are often seen in a “banana” shaped position.

The seals we see on Long Island are most often Harbor seals, but there are a few other types, such as harp seals, grey seals, hooded seals, and ringed seals.  Numbers have been increasing in past years into the thousands around Long Island due to the changing location of their food sources and the changing temperatures of their watery habitat.  Most of the seals that visit Long Island are younger seals.  These marine mammals eat a variety of crustaceans, fish and shellfish like mussels, clams, oysters and squid.

Common Winter Residents

Grey Seal

Grey Seals have a silvery grey coat with mottled black markings.  Their eyes are set further back on their head.  They are easily identified with their horse like snout, large head, and loud bark.  We usually see the smaller sized pups on our beaches.

Harbor Seal

This is the most common seal you may see, with a white to yellowish coat with a white to yellowish coat with black speckles.  Males are 5-5 ˝ feet and weigh about 375 pounds.  Females and pups are smaller.  Pups we see are often about 6 months to 1˝ years old, weighing about 20 pounds and are approximately 2 ˝ feet long.  When in the water, their face resembles that of a dog.  Their species name literally means “sea dog”.

Occasional Sightings

Harp Seal

Adults have a dark chevron shape on their back and can reach up to 6 feet in length and 400 pounds.  Pups have a light coat with black blotches and are more commonly seen than the adults.

Ringed Seal

Ringed seals have dark ringed spots over a silvery coat on their back and sides.  Their underside is silvery also.  These seals reach 4 – 4 ˝ feet in length and up to 200 pounds.  Pups are smaller.  These seals are a rare sight in our area. 

Hooded Seal

Hooded seals come south, traveling from the Polar ice pack, the same region as the harp seal.  Adults reach lengths of 7 - 9 feet and 670 - 900 pounds.  Males have an unusual nasal sac that is inflated when threatened or angered.  Pups are 3 ˝ feet and about 50 pounds.  Pups lack the nasal sac, but have a large round head and flat face. 

Seal Fun Facts

  • Seals can hold their breath for up to 28 minutes on a long dive.

  • Seals have a thick layer of blubber and a fur coat to protect them from the cold waters they live in.

  • Seals sense predators using their sensitive whiskers and hearing.

  • Seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Act of 1972.

  • Some seals from the Artic go as far south as the Carolinas.

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Ken Kindler
Open Space & Trails Advocate
Post Office Box 1466
Sayville NY 11782
Ken@Hike-LI.com

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