After a night’s stay at Myrtle Beach State Park, rare gray seal returns to the ocean

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gray seal

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WBTW) – After a relaxing overnight stay, a rare gray seal returned to the ocean and its travels, Myrtle Beach State Park rangers reported Thursday morning.

Ben Santomassimo, a Myrtle Beach State Park ranger for two years, took a colorful sunrise photo of the seal Thursday morning as it left the park.

Gray seals are very rare in South Carolina, according to park officials. This one made its way to shore on Wednesday.

This time, one was spotted at the southernmost access point of Myrtle Beach State Park. Park officials tell News13 this is a gray seal. They say this one was released from the Virginia Aquarium after it was tagged.

Park ranger Ann Wilson tells News13 the seal is under a year old and officials do not believe it is injured.

It appeared on the sand around 11 a.m. Wednesday. 

A News13 photographer captured the seal rolling around in the sand, stretching and scratching its chin as the sun went down. Click the video above to watch.

Police were making sure that no one gets too close to the animal.

This comes three months after an harbor seal washed up near 30th Avenue North. SCDNR said that seal appeared to have a shark bite injury to its flipper.

In late December, a seal was spotted once again in Horry County. Officials at that time were not sure if it was the same seal as the one a few weeks prior.

Since the NOAA began counting in 1994, there have been fewer than 30 sightings of seals in South Carolina. The NOAA says harbor seals are usually found in the Atlantic Ocean from Canada to New York.

Dr. Rob Young, a marine scientist for Coastal Carolina University, told News13 in December that seals sometimes swim south when the water is colder.

“They’re here every winter,” said Dr. Young. “Usually, you see one or two at a time. A few years ago, we had a couple that would haul out regularly in Murrells Inlet on the jetties for several weeks. We had similar things in Little River.”

Viewer Kevin O’Neill told News13 that he saw a young gray seal resting on the beach near the north end of Huntington Beach State Park on Thursday. O’Neill said the seal has a tag on its tail from the Virginia aquarium. He also said a park ranger stated this is the same seal that was seen at Myrtle Beach State Park on Wednesday. 

NOAA says, “We encourage people to contact us when they see marine life in trouble, then biologists work with members of the public to collect the information needed.”

Call 1-877-WHALE-HELP hotline or use our phone app, Dolphin and Whale 911.

To report injured or dead marine life, NOAA asks that you use their toll free hotline, 1-877-WHALE-HELP or the phone app, Dolphin and Whale 911.
Please stay with the animal at a safe distance and report your finding to trained staff who will have further instructions and respond. 

If you see a seal while you’re at any of our local beaches, and it’s safe to do so, send us a picture! E-mail it to news@wbtw.com!

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