Iíve lived close to the coast for many years and spend a lot of time in or around the water. Iíve observed Harbor Seals plenty of times in the quiet waters of harbors and bays resting and feeding but never in the surf at a beach. Iíve usually been on land or in small boats.
I'm also a new surfer. Early last evening, I saw 3 seals in the water last night (7:15 pm) on Nauset Beach in Orleans. One of them came to about8 to 10 feet away from me and may have just been playing the waves or feeding. One of the other surfers I was with mentioned he felt one brush up to his leg while he was in shallow water. Huge waves and a lot of white water prevented him from seeing exactly what it was, fish or seal.
We were spooked enough to leave the water for 3 reasons. First, I've heard it's rare but Iíve read that they can bite swimmers and second, I know it's early, but in late August of 2008 or 2009, I recall hearing that a high seal population brought Great White Sharks into the Chatham area. Also, the other 2 or 3 surfers left about the time we saw the seals show up.
So, what should I expect when seals are around in the water. Are they harmless and just curious or should we leave the water when we see them?
I've spent years body surfing and body boarding in and around cape and marshfield beaches and I've never seen a seal in the water.
100% completely harmless. they are just curious and will not hurt you. I surf with seals all of the time. As far as them attracting sharks, seals are pretty smart, if there were sharks around, they wouldn't be there. And if there were a shark around, it would certainly chose the seal over you.
This February me and one other guy were chased from the water by a Hooded Seal. Hooded Seals are very aggressive to humans and territorial, but luckily, they are rare. I surf in NY and I would suggest if you surf in NY or north of NY, that you learn to identify these seals.
As for Harbor Seals, One time I was hiking in Newfoundland with a vet who specialized in non-domestic animals. I asked him about seals and he told me that all seals can give a nasty bite. Harbor Seals have always seemed very chill, but I'm sure if you happen to be by their young, or piss them off by being obnoxious, that they could be potentially dangerous.
Leave them alone, and they'll leave you alone. The only time a saw a Harbor Seal get aggressive was when a surfer paddled up to one that was hanging out near the end of a jetty. Guess the seal felt cornered and made a deliberate lunge for the guy, mouth open and all. Didn't take a bite out of him, but it was definitely an aggressive, "back off" message. And those teeth looked long and pointy enough to do some damage, too.
But yea... they're very intelligent and curious and will come in close to see what's up. They're hearing and eyesight are excellent underwater, so there's really no chance of somebody being mistakenly bitten... like sharks do all the time.
Following on my previous question re: seals, sharks and surfers.
They (seals) are in the local news again up here. in light of a recent sighting of a 15' Great White near shore in the 2 miles south of the Nauset bathing beach areas. This particular shark was spotted by a fish spotter in a plane. the shark was agressively chasing some seals toward shore where it trapped them in shallow water and dined. Yummy. The reports in the news included comments from the harbormaster and shark experts that said, steer clear if you see seals in the water.
Everybody says, Sharks would rather eat seals than people. Oh yeah? I just went downstairs for lunch in the office caf. I was getting a salad, that was the plan. I saw the burger covered pizza and grabbed a slice of that too while I was in the neighborhood.
This time of year I would steer clear of surfing that area. You might as well go surf around the red triangle in California if you wanna die that badly - you'll at least get decent waves before you're snacked on