I was walking on Rehoboth Beach this weekend when I saw something I had never seen before: a seal on the sand. A small crowd had gathered outside the cordoned area of beach. The scene was somehow both respectful and not, as if the yellow plastic ribbon signaled an honorific that the animal almost certainly wouldn’t want. If the animal was hurt, it felt unseemly to gawk.
A woman turned to the one person who looked like he might actually know something and said, “Poor guy. What happened?” assuming, as I think we all were, that the seal was dead or dying or had no happy reason for lying there in the spring sun.
I’m glad she asked. Here’s what I heard:
- Because he’s a wild animal, the seal can’t be moved unless or until he moves himself, or NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) says so.
- A seal can spit up to 20′ so, just in case, he and we were being kept apart, for “everyone’s safety – yours and his.”
- As of that moment, the ranger knew only that the seal had conjunctivitis in one eye.
- A harbor seal, measuring about 40 inches, this seal was one of many that swim up and down the east coast between February and May. Seals! In the mid Atlantic! I didn’t know!
- He doesn’t need to eat for a week, doesn’t need a drink, doesn’t need to be kept wet. He’s maybe just resting.
- Every year 4-5 end up on the beach in Rehoboth, for a variety of reasons. Some are fine, just resting; some are not…
I hope he’s fine. I hope he’s fine, well rested, now well on his way.
Life Lesson #40: Just ask.