Seals swim in Long Beach. So you think we’re pulling your leg? If we were, why then would we devote #93 of Patch’s series 100 Things to Do in Long Beach to the best places to go in the city to spot the sea mammals?
From Reynolds Channel to the Atlantic, seal sightings have become routine in Long Beach since 2009, and many residents are quick to tell you a story or two about their particular experiences.
The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, a non-profit that operates the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program, says the number of seal sightings on eastern Long Island have gone up in recent years. An aerial survey had counted 400 seal sightings in January alone.
Long Island is home to four species of seals — Harbor, Harp, Gray and Hooded — and people can spot these wintering seals from November to May. Several companies and parks offer seal walks around Long Island from February to mid-May, ranging from $4 to $15 a person. But in Long Beach you can see the seals for free.
"In the last three years there's been a rise in seal sightings here," said Luke Hamlet, owner of Long Beach Surf Shop. "It used to be unusual and a little scary to be on your board and see a seal pop up, but now it's a regular thing. A couple of weeks ago a female surfer came in telling us about a seal she watched hang on the jetties."
Though seals can be spotted throughout Long Beach waters, there are a few suggested locations that offer comfort and ideal viewing. They are the pier along West Bay Drive and behind the Recreation Center, behind the playground on Clark Street in the Canals neighborhood, and the north end of Monroe Boulevard next to the Tennis Center.
Researchers at the Riverhead Foundation suggest that morning is the best time to spot a number of seals in the bay off Long Beach, when the tide is low and before the boats are out and about. If you're looking to catch a seal basking on the jetties, however, they suggest arriving three hours before low tide.
Researchers do ask that if you spot a seal that appears to be sick or in need of help, call the Riverhead Foundation hotline at 631-369-9829.
Meanwhile, grab those binoculars and head out to the bay. Happy spotting!
Season: November to mid-May
Notes: Bring your binoculars and have some time on your hands. Adult seals can stay underwater for 30 minutes at a time, giving you lots of waiting time between sightings.