Friday, April 24, 2015

Harbor Seals in New Jersey

Seals hauled-out at Sandy Hook, NJ. © Joe Reynolds

Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) and Jenkinson’s Aquarium today announced the release of a new interactive, digital story map that showcases harbor seals in New Jersey. A story map is a web-based interactive map embedded with multimedia content, such as text, photographs, and video. Visit to view the story map.

“Many New Jersey residents don’t realize that we have seals right here along our shore,” explained Conserve Wildlife Foundation GIS Program Manager Michael Davenport. “Unless you know the right places and the right time to look for them, you may never see them. Our new story map offers a unique viewpoint into the lives of New Jersey’s harbor seals that can be accessed by anyone at any time. You can also get an up-close-and-personal look at these animals when you pay visit to Jenkinson’s Aquarium.” 

Harbor seals can be found across the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. In Europe, they occur within the Baltic, Barents, and North Seas. Across the Atlantic, they can be found in Canada and along the northeastern U.S. New Jersey is typically as far south as they travel in large numbers during the winter; with occasional sightings as far south as Florida.

Sandy Hook has New Jersey’s 2nd largest seal haul-out site. Seals can most often be observed on the bayside beaches but may also be occasionally observed on the ocean beaches, the rocky shoreline near Officer’s Row, or on floating patches of ice in Sandy Hook Bay. Up to 95 seals have been observed here at one time. A boardwalk with a viewing platform leads out to the best viewing spot on the bay side of the main road.
"We were so happy to partner with Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey on this project,” stated Jenkinson’s Aquarium Assistant Curator Katie Canady. “Educating the public about the seals in New Jersey, and the proper way to observe without disturbing them has always been one of our goals. It is great to have this as another tool to assist with getting the word out."

“Harbor Seals in New Jersey” also profiles two seals at Jenkinson’s Aquarium which have very different personalities and came to the Aquarium from two very different places. Jenkinson’s has been home for harbor seals since 1991, when their first seal “Luseal” moved in. She was soon joined by another seal, “Seaquin.” Luseal and Seaquin have pages devoted to them in the Story Map with photos and interesting facts about their lives and behaviors. The release of the Story Map coincides with the renovation of the seal exhibit at Jenkinson’s Aquarium.

“The first time you see a seal in the wild can be such a memorable experience, yet so many people don’t realize you can enjoy that experience right here in New Jersey,” said Conserve Wildlife Foundation Executive Director David Wheeler. “We are thrilled to partner with Jenkinson’s Aquarium to spread awareness of these marvelous creatures that winter along our coast. Harbor seals are among the many incredible wildlife species that inhabit New Jersey’s coast, and these story maps highlight another vivid example of why our state’s wildlife biodiversity is so impressive and unique.”

Over the years, Conserve Wildlife Foundation staff have worked with a number of marine biologists in order to monitor seal populations in New Jersey and minimize disturbance or harm to the animals. Most recently, CWF held two workshops in 2014 to educate first responders on handling marine mammal and sea turtle strandings. Conserve Wildlife Foundation is continuing its ongoing efforts at educating the public about these amazing animals with the release of the “Harbor Seals in New Jersey” story map. 

The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey (CWF) is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to protecting New Jersey’s rare wildlife species and the diverse habitats they depend on. We carry out our mission by researching and managing imperiled species, restoring habitat, educating New Jersey’s residents, and engaging volunteers in our conservation projects. Since the early 1990’s, CWF scientists and educators have helped conserve and protect a variety of at-risk species of wildlife in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the nation.

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