Long Island's coastal waters are a favorite hangout for harbor seals starting around November and lasting until about May, according to Arthur Kopelman, president of the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island, which organizes seal watches from Westhampton Beach. Seal watchers "get to see stuff in the wild that some have never seen before," says Kopelman, who in addition to his role at CRESLI, is a specialist in population ecology of marine mammals. Here are a few worthwhile seal walks.
CRESLI SEAL WALKS, 631-244-3352, cresli.org. Cupsogue Beach County Park, at the western end of Dune Road, Westhampton Beach. Departs from area near the fence at the western end of the parking lot. About 1.3 miles round-trip and about 2 hours. Weather permitting, meet 15 minutes before departure, not suitable for children. Reservations required.
Dates and times: 10:30 a.m. Nov. 22; 11 a.m. Nov. 23; 10:30 a.m. Dec. 6; 11 a.m. Dec. 7; 9:30 a.m. Dec. 20; 10 a.m. Dec. 21; 9:30 a.m. Jan. 3; 10 a.m. Jan. 4; 8 a.m. Jan. 17; 9 a.m. Jan. 18; 8:30 a.m. Jan. 31; 9 a.m. Feb. 1; 8 a.m. Feb. 14; 8:30 a.m. Feb. 15; 8 a.m. Feb. 28; 8:30 a.m. March 1; noon March 7; 7:30 a.m. March 14; 8 a.m. March 15; noon March 21; 1 p.m. March 22; 7:30 a.m. March 28; 8 a.m. March 29; noon April 4; 1 p.m. April 5; 7 a.m. April 12; noon April 18; 1 p.m. April 19; 7 a.m. April 25; 8 a.m. April 26.
Fee: $5, $3 younger than 18.
GUIDED SEAL WALKS, Montauk Point State Park (meet at concession area), 631-668-5000, nysparks.com. 3-mile round-trip hike to view seals and learn about their habits, behavior and population trends.
Fee: $5, $3 children, plus $6 vehicle fee. Season: December-March, call for dates and times.
SEAL WATCHING CRUISES, Captain Lou, Woodcleft Avenue, Freeport, 631-369-9840, riverheadfoundation.org. Seal-watching cruises organized by the Riverhead Foundation for Marine
Research and Preservation. A naturalist is on board to discuss the behavior and biology of seals and other wildlife encountered.
Dates: Sat.-Sun. January through mid-April.
Fee: Check website for schedule and fee.