Seal spotted at Caswell Cove marina

Milford has another marine visitor garnering attention. About a week ago it was a pod of possibly pilot whales that appeared on a local Facebook posting. This week, Scott Harper shared photos of a seal after taking the shots Sunday at Caswell Cove.

Harper, who works in HVAC but shoots photos on the side, said a friend who has a boat at Caswell Cove initially posted a photograph of the seal. Harper thought his friend was traveling and took the photo in another state. When Harper found out the seal was right here in Milford, he hopped in his work van and headed over.

The seal was still at Caswell Cove when he arrived, and Harper managed to get within several feet of the seal. At that proximity, the seal did start “hopping and barking” Harper said, but generally it was calm.

Harper said the seal looked perfectly healthy to him: He zoomed in with his camera and didn’t see any cuts or marks.

Dave Sigworth, publicist for the Maritime Aquarium, said the seal is a harbor seal, “which is the species of seal that, since about the mid-1990s, commonly comes in to Long Island Sound each winter. They migrate down from the Gulf of Maine. There is a very small year-round population in the Sound, but the numbers increase greatly at this time of year with the migration.”

Sigworth said the seal is likely fine.

“It’s not beached,” Sigworth said. “Seals will come out of the water to rest; a behavior called ‘hauling out.’ They frequently haul out on rocks and shoals exposed at low tide, but you’ll also see them sometimes on the beach, waterfront backyards and (obviously) docks.”

Harper said he was told the seal was first spotted at Caswell Cove on Sunday, spent time swimming around the marina and then jumped up on the docks.

Harper grew up in Milford and never saw a seal here before. “That’s why when they said it was in Milford, I raced right over,” he said.

Dotti Bateman, president of the Caswell Cove Condo Association, hasn’t seen the seal yet herself but she shared Harper’s photo on her Facebook page, and she’s been keeping an eye out for the seal.

“He was there yesterday,” Bateman said on Tuesday, “but I don't think it is the same spot each time. I’ve been looking through my binoculars, but I can't see all the dock from here.”

Sigworth said this is a good time to remind people that seals are federally protected marine mammals, and it is illegal to approach or bother them.

“It also is dangerous because they will bite,” Sigworth said. “Also, the seals on Cape Cod and northern New England this summer were troubled by an influenza virus — capable of being shared between humans and animals — and a phocine distemper virus — unknown if it can be transmitted to dogs, but possibly.”

The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recommends staying 100 yards away from seals and other marine mammals, and keeping dogs on a leash and not allowing them to approach seals, he added.

“If a seal does seem to be injured or sick — perhaps hasn’t moved from its haul-out spot for 24 hours — then a call should be placed to Mystic Aquarium, which is the rescue/rehab facility for all of Connecticut,” Sigworth said.

The 24-hour number for Mystic Aquarium is 860-572-5955, ext. 107.