Four stray seals saved from danger on Cape Cod

A female juvenile harp seal strayed into the road in Harwich, but was collected, tagged and safely relocated to a nearby beach.

Harp seals sometimes need a break from swimming and will haul-out onto ice or dry land for some sun and rest.

We don’t really know why, but sometimes hauled-out harp seals will venture over dunes, across roads, and even into residential areas.

Low to the ground and unfamiliar with the dangers of cars, they certainly run the risk of being injured or killed.

Luckily, for these four seals, caring members of the public called our marine mammal stranding hotline and the otherwise healthy animals were collected and released at safe locations nearby:

Near the Orleans Rotary, Orleans, Massachusetts (February 16)

This female harp seal was noticed on the side of the road by a Fed-Ex delivery man and reported to Wild Care Cape Cod, the local wildlife rehabilitation center. 

The Wild Care staff attempted to keep it out of the busy road by putting a cardboard box over it.  Normally, we would discourage intervention as it is usually best to monitor the animal from a distance until we can arrive, but in this case our colleagues at Wild Care had to keep the animal safe. 

When the IFAW team arrived, we collected the feisty seal and relocated her to a nearby beach where she immediately headed for the water and swam off.

Bass River Boat Ramp, Yarmouth, Massachusetts (February 19)


Seal Rescue

On February 19th Yarmouth Division of Natural Resources Officers were dispatched to the beach in front of Blue Water Resort off South Shore Dr. Upon arrival Officers were advised of a seal that was on the beach enjoying the sun. The officer found the seal and made the determination that it was a Harp seal and in good health. International Fund for Animal Welfare - IFAW Stranding Network was notified about the seal. Officers prepared public educational signs to be put near the seal to keep people away per federal regulation. In the process of gathering those signs the seal returned to the water. Approximately 1.5 hours later, DNR received multiple calls about a seal on the boat ramp at Bass River Beach. Bass River beach is a very popular area even in the winter months for locals and the occasional tourist to visit and get great views of Yarmouths' beautiful beaches and Nantucket Sound. Officers responded and located the seal on the boat ramp waving her flipper as if to say, "Good to see you again". This seal was also a Harp seal and had almost identical markings to the seal that was observed earlier in the day. DNR Officers notified International Fund for Animal Welfare - IFAW about the seal and were advised that representatives from IFAWs Marine Animal Rescue would be there to assess the seal. As more and more curious on-lookers gathered around the vehicles and within close proximity to the seal, a joint determination was made to relocate the seal and ensure the gathering crowd of people would not overly stress the animal out. In most cases relocation is not necessary and a last resort, however because of the location of the seal and the popularity of the area the seal was at, relocation was the best option for the seal and the public. Great team effort from all agencies involved!Remember:If you see a seal on the beach, the best thing to do is to leave it alone and let it rest.Please keep back at least 150 feet if possible and please keep dogs back as far as possible!CHECK OUT THE VIDEO BELOW

Posted by Yarmouth Division of Natural Resources on Monday, February 22, 2016


This female harp seal came out to rest on a busy boat ramp and was reported to our hotline.  Our team was dispatched to the site and assessed her to be in good health, but we were concerned for her safety at her chosen location.  She was collected and transported for release at a quiet location on Great Island, Yarmouth. 

Prior to release, she was affixed with a small flipper tag for identification.  The following morning she was reported at a beach in the neighboring town of Barnstable. Our team was dispatched again to check her condition.

We were happy to find that she still seemed to be doing well and shortly after our arrival, she decided to go back into the ocean.

Lieutenant Island Causeway, Wellfleet, Massachusetts (February 26)

This male juvenile harp seal was reported right in the middle of the road just before the bridge leading on to Lieutenant Island in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.  This was a particularly dangerous location as motorists could not see him as they came over the bridge from the island and there was a high potential that the seal could be hit by a car.

The Wellfleet Animal Control Officer and a trained IFAW volunteer responder kept watch over the seal and tried to keep him out of the road while our team was en route. The feisty little guy gave them quite a hard time, but they were able to alert drivers to his presence and keep him safe until we arrived. 

Our team assessed him to be in good health but in need of relocation to a safer place. He was transported to a beach in the neighboring town of Eastham, marked with temporary livestock paint for future identification and was released.  He must not have appreciated our efforts because after a few dirty looks back at our team, he headed right for the ocean.

Kildee Rd., Harwich, Massachusetts (March 6)

Our most recent off-course seal was just this past Sunday. A female juvenile harp seal strayed into the road in Harwich. The Harwich police reported it to our hotline and diverted traffic until our team arrived.  This seemingly healthy seal was also collected, tagged and relocated to a nearby beach.

While these four seals found themselves in dangerous situations, it is normal for seals to spend time both in the water and on land.  Seals may be seen on the beach, rocks or on a dock alone and even for multiple days. If you see a seal on the beach, please stay back 150 feet.

Please also call IFAW’s Stranding Reporting line at 508-743-9548 for Cape Cod and the south coast, MA.  For all other areas, please call your local Marine Mammal Stranding agency. 

Note: Activities conducted under a federal stranding agreement between IFAW and NMFS under the MMPA


Olivia Guerra and Annaleise Conway participated in the rescues of these animals and wrote sections of this blog. Both are interns with our Marine Mammal Rescue team.  Olivia previously volunteered at Marine Animal Rehabilitation and Conservation in Maine and currently is employed as a Fisheries Observer in addition to serving fulfilling her second internship here at IFAW.  Annaleise interned with the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

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Senior Program Advisor
Senior Program Advisor
Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
IFAW Veterinarian
Katie Moore, Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Deputy Vice President, Conservation and Animal Welfare
Loïs Lelanchon, Animal Rescue Program Officer
Animal Rescue Program Officer
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy