Arctic Seals Found On North Carolina Coast

Mar 23, 2011

Harp seal on Harkers Island Feb 23
Credit NC Dept of Cultural Resources

Several adult harp seals have been spotted along the North Carolina coast. Harp seals normally live in icy regions in the Arctic and Canada. Small populations have been moving down the East Coast in recent years, but this is the furthest south the seals have been spotted.

UNC Wilmington marine biologist Ann Pabst says seven harp seals have been found in North Carolina so far. Several appeared healthy but others were ailing or dead:

" "This has just been a very unusual year. We’ve had animals in the area since February and the first mortalities that we’ve seen here were animals that we recovered over this weekend. We’re not sure exactly sure why that is but these animals are, obviously, out of habitat."

Pabst says it’s also unclear why the seals have migrated this far south. Adult harp seals are five to six feet long and can be recognized by the horseshoe-shaped black coloring on their backs.