Long Island Parks offer seal walks through the end of winter

By Caitlyn McDuffee and Felicia LaLomia

Three parks on Long Island are offering weekly seal walks through February and March to teach the public about the animals and show the seals in their habitat.

Cupsogue Beach County Park, Jones Beach and Montauk Point State Park facilitators hope they will make the Long Island community more aware of the marine animals.

“We hope these seal walks create stakeholders,” Dr. Arthur H. Kopelman, president of Coastal Research Education Society of Long Island (CRESLI), said. “Someone who feels this connection to what’s there, to what they see, as if they’ve got a stake in the existence in the state of these ecosystems, and I hope that it will aid them to act in such a way to preserve them because we are all dependent.”

Jones Beach has seen increases in popularity of the seal walks and have even added a waitlist. Suzanne Montefinise, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, said they have added more walks in the past years. The center has at least one every weekend and do many private walks during the week, taking around 50 people each time. Each group observes around 10 seals in the Field 10 harbor.

“I think a lot of people on Long Island don’t realize that we have this natural environment,” she said. “Because we have so many malls, parkways, and suburban area, they don’t realize that we have a lot of wildlife here. So, I think when you see that you get curious and interested.”

 



 

The Long Island shores are home to a variety of marine creatures, but park staff say much of the public is still surprised to find out seals are among them.

“I feel like people don’t really know there are seals here, and when they hear that, it is such an odd thing to them,” Michael Bayer, the Parks and Recreational Aid at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center at Jones Beach State Park, said. “They have to see it to believe it.”

The number of seals seen depends on time of year and location of the park, Dr. Kopelman said.

“The seals will begin to show up in September, but the numbers increase rapidly in January, February and keep increasing until late March,” he said.

In the spring and summer, the seals are in the Gulf of Maine and the Arctic. But the amount of seals worldwide has been increasing over the past few decades, due to the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 which prohibited the killing of marine mammals for their fur or interference with commercial fishing.

“Populations are increasing due to protection from Marine Mammal Protection Act, in general,”  Robert A. DiGiovanni, Jr., Founder and Chief Scientist of Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, said. “Locally, because seals have found the right environment to live, mate and find food.”

The mean number of seals seen per observation on Cupsogue Beach was about 91, compared to 67 in 2015 and 10 in 2007, according to CRESLI. Between November and March, when most seal walks are held, February and March are the best times to see the seals with averages of almost 61 and 72 seals seen per walk respectively.

The seals are most visible to the public during these month because of their migration pattern, Annie McIntyre, the Regional Environmental Manager at the Theodore Roosevelt Nature Center, said.

“Out in Montauk, the first place they would hit, you can see them in December because the population is decent there. But it takes time for them to get further west,” she said.

These Long Island state parks will continue to conduct these seal walks until late March, with the next one being this Saturday at Cupsogue Beach and Jones Beach State Park.

 

About Felicia Lalomia 3 Articles
I am currently a first-semester senior at Stony Brook University majoring in Journalism and minoring in Media Arts. My goal is to enter the food-writing industry, writing stories and producing videos about food culture, and all those who work within it. Food has always been at the center of my life. I grew up watching my mother fill the house with scents of sauteeing, roasting and grilling. My father, who was never much of a cook, was always more involved in the technical, science-y side, hence the beer-making. Both of their delicious dishes always drew relatives and friends from all corners of the world to our kitchen table. This is why I want to write about food. It defines the parameters of my childhood, but is a universal language, bringing together cultures and people and creating joy. I want to be the one to tell those stories in a captivating way. I am constantly thinking of new ideas to bring those stories to life. In my free time over winter break of 2019, I started a video series of my experiences learning how to cook from The Joy of Cooking called “Culinary Crusades” Here, I filmed all the slip-ups and successes I had while making the most classic recipes from one of the most classic cookbooks. By creating my own content now, I not only gain experience, but learn so much more about food, while enjoying the process. I have also interned at Urban Corning, a blog from my hometown, covering food, culture and the arts, as well as completed an internship at WENY, a newsroom based out of Horseheads, NY. Currently, I am the Senior Editor and Vice President of Stony Brook University’s online female-interest magazine, Her Campus.