A gray seal pup explores a Cape Elizabeth neighborhood during the storm on Monday morning. Photo courtesy of Cape Elizabeth Police Department

Undeterred by the snow, a wayward gray seal spent Monday morning exploring Cape Elizabeth’s coastal neighborhoods.

A public works employee plowing the Oakhurst Road neighborhood called police at 1:30 a.m. to report an unusual sight: a seal scurrying through the neighborhood.

“An officer responding to the area located the seal in the roadway enjoying the hush of a snowy winter night,” Cape Elizabeth police wrote on Facebook.

Thus began a game of catch-and-release around the town’s coastal neighborhoods. The officer reported the seal to a hotline run by the Marine Mammals of Maine, a nonprofit that responds to stranded marine mammals and sea turtles in southern and Midcoast Maine, and provides triage and rehabilitative care to seals from across New England.

It turns out they already had his number – No. 6, as the young, male gray seal is called in their records. (The organization does not name wild animals and instead identifies them in chronological order of response during the year.) A trained volunteer had responded to a call about the same seal the previous day when he was lounging in a backyard on Oak Knoll Road in Cape Elizabeth.

Lynda Doughty, executive director of Marine Mammals of Maine, said No. 6 weighs about 35 pounds. (An adult can weigh between 800 and 1,000 pounds.) Gray seals are born between December and February, and the mothers leave their pups after just three weeks of lactation. Some, like No. 6, have trouble adjusting during this weaning period.


“They’re in the ocean on their own for the first time and trying to learn how to eat on their own,” Doughty said. “It’s not surprising to find these young animals that come up on the roadways or parking lots.”

She described No. 6 as “on the thinner side, alert, bright and active.” Seeing no injuries or other causes for significant concern, the volunteer who assessed him on Sunday decided to leave him be in the yard, and he eventually returned to the water on his own.

The gray seal pup, a male known as No. 6 by Marine Mammals of Maine, was returned to the ocean several times but kept coming back on shore in a game of catch-and-release with Cape Elizabeth police. Photo courtesy of Cape Elizabeth Police Department

But then he ventured into the road in the middle of the night. Concerned about the danger that posed, the dispatcher advised the officer to capture the seal and bring it to a more protected area in Fort Williams Park, where it was released back into the ocean.

But by 7 a.m., the seal was making its way down Shore Road, “possibly following the delicious scent of Cookie Jar donuts being baked,” police said.

This time, an officer found the seal crossing a lawn on Olde Fort Road. With the help of a bystander, the seal was captured and brought back to the beach at Fort Williams Park.

But the seal wasn’t done exploring Cape Elizabeth.


An hour later, the young pup was spotted in Fort Williams. An officer and several citizens captured the seal and released it back into the ocean.

“This time, the seal swam off in search of bigger and better adventures,” police said.

After No. 6 came back ashore Monday afternoon, Marine Mammals of Maine decided it would be best to bring him to its rehab center in Brunswick, where the rescue organization will keep him on fluids and come up with a nutrition plan. The 35-pound pup was likely recently weaned from his mother and it wasn’t clear if had been successful at eating fish in the wild. Courtesy of Lynda Doughty at Marine Mammals of Maine


Doughty said Marine Mammals of Maine was in touch with the police during the response, and the officer did the right thing by calling the group’s hotline for stranded animals. A volunteer went to the park Monday afternoon to do another assessment of the seal and found him yet again on the run.

“The animal was in the Fort Williams parking lot, headed away from the water,” she said.

So the organization decided to bring the seal to its rehab center in Brunswick. It’s too soon to know whether he has been successful at eating fish in the wild, but they’ll keep him on fluids for a couple of days and make a treatment plan for his nutrition. Doughty said she expects him to have a relatively short stay of one or two months.

A young gray seal rests at Marine Mammals of Maine after he was taken in by the group Monday. Courtesy of Lynda Doughty at Marine Mammals of Maine

Three other gray seals are at the rehab center right now, but No. 6 is getting some rest on his own so far.

“With all his travels, he’s been snoozing quite a bit,” Doughty said.

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