Baltimore Sun

Seal sighting in the Patapsco River?

First a manatee, now a seal?  What's going on in the Patapsco River?  An Anne Arundel County resident who lives on Stony Creek reports she saw an animal rolling around on her pier last night that looked for all the world like the critter pictured above.

Mary Sharp, who lives in Orchard Beach, said she saw a "black thing" bobbing back and forth in the light shining on the deck of her pier around 7 p.m. She said she watched the animal through binoculars for about 5 to 10 minutes, and even went outside to the crest of the hill leading down to her dock to get a better look before it apparently went back in the water.


Unfortunately, she didn't get a picture of the animal, but she said she was sure it wasn't the manatee that was last sighted a few weeks ago in the river near Harbor Hospital.  This was darker, weighed maybe 80 pounds and was out of the water.  Sharp said she initially thought it was a seal or a sea lion; a call to the National Aquarium this morning informed her it was most likely a harbor seal - not unheard of, but not commonly seen this far up the Chesapeake Bay.

Whatever it was, the animal apparently was able to climb out of the water onto her pier.  She said the steps leading up from the water were wet, and she found a partially eaten fish on the deck where it had been.


"I left that fish that was flopping around on the pier, just in case he came back," Sharp said.

So far, no luck. But if you spy something in the water that looks like a seal - or the elusive manatee - give a call to the Aquarium's 24-hour pager to report your sighting, 410-373-0083.   Let us know, too, and we'll share it here.

UPDATE (11/16):  Jennifer Dittmar, the aquarium's marine mammal stranding coordinator, emails that based on Mary's description, it sounds like a "healthy seal that happened to stop for a meal."  Most likely it was a harbor or harp seal, she adds, since they're the two species that have been seen around here before.

"It's not unheard of for a seal to travel this far up the bay, but it's also not a common occurrence," Dittmar explains. "In the last 12 years or so, we have at least three documented seal sightings north of the Bay Bridge."

(Harbor seal swimming near Boston Harbor, October 2010, New England Aquarium photo via AP)