Seal takes a break at Dover

DOVER — George Chabbott stepped outside Saturday morning and “the prettiest face you ever saw” grabbed his attention.

Wife Marilyn needn’t be jealous, though. The creature stretched out on his floating dock on the St. Jones River was a 5-foot long seal.

“I was amazed,” said Mr. Chabbott, a retired Air Force colonel, Dover businessman and past president of the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve seen seals all over, but not here.”

“Here” is Windswept Drive, nestled against the St. Jones off Del. 10.

Kevin Kalasz, with the Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife, said the Chabbotts’ visitor likely was a young harbor seal, born within the past year.

“Interesting,” he said Tuesday. “It’s not a common event that one is that far up the St. Jones.”

Mostly they stick to the Delaware Bay, Mr. Kalasz said, sometimes hanging around Woodland Beach.

A seal pup took advantage of a floating dock on the St. Jones Saturday to catch some early morning sunshine. (Submitted by George Chabbott)

A seal pup took advantage of a floating dock on the St. Jones Saturday to catch some early morning sunshine. (Submitted by George Chabbott)

The pup likely was tailgating meals with fins.

“They are following migrating fish, herring and stuff like that. The fish are coming into the river to spawn,” said Mr. Kalasz, who is with the species research and conservation program of the division.

He also confirmed what Mr. Chabbott said, that the pups are sent out on their own and, like most adventuresome youngsters, move around.

The Chabbotts enjoyed their guest from afar, just like they should, Mr. Kalasz said.

People spotting a seal shouldn’t bother it, he advised.

“Keep an eye on it. If it’s going in and out of the water and barks, it’s behaving normally. That’s a good sign.”

A not-so-good sign, however, are seals lethargically sprawled on their stomachs. In that case, Mr. Kalasz recommends contacting MERR —the Marine Education, Research & Rehabilitation Institute in Lewes at (302) 228-5029. Its volunteers provide emergency response to stranded whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and sea turtles along Delaware’s coastal waters.

The Chabbotts’ visitor, happily, appeared to be in good health, Mr. Kalasz said after seeing a photo of it.

The seal’s apparent healthiness mirrors the regional population as a whole. Harbor seals have become a little more common along Middle Atlantic waters, Mr. Kalasz said.

“The population is doing well.”

Mr. Chabbott said their pretty guest departed about a half hour after it was spotted.

Perhaps, adventure — or breakfast — called.

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