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Seal Surveys in Delaware Bay

Zeal Goolesby

Mar 20, 2023

For the past decade, MERR has been informally documenting the growing seasonal grey and harbor seal colony located off of Lewes. However, beginning in the winter of 2022 MERR started officially documenting the seal colony. Cape Water Tours and Taxi takes our survey team out to the location of the colony, and keeps the vessel 300 feet away so as to not disturb the seals. This is not just the crew being respectful, but following the law. We survey the colony and record the number of seals, number of pups, species, behaviors, location of seals, and any signs of injuries.

The survey is conducted every 1-2 weeks, depending on weather conditions. Seal season occurs from late November to late March, but pupping starts in February. If you noticed an increase in dependent pups, or pups in general, on Delaware beaches, the colony may be part of the cause. It is a new and exciting development that started in 2014! Mothers pup out on the rocks, and as the pups grow, they explore and find our beaches, deeming them good enough to stop and rest here.

This Lewes seasonal seal colony is the most southerly population of grey seals in any abundance, making this colony a very important and unique study group. MERR recognizes this and it is a driving factor in why we conduct these surveys. Future goals are to establish a surveillance camera near the colony and observe the seals from afar.

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