Seals are seen relaxing on shore during the Captain Lou...

Seals are seen relaxing on shore during the Captain Lou Fleet seal watching cruise. Credit: Corey Sipkin

You might not love the cold weather that smacks Long Island come winter, but plenty of animals do.

"Winter wildlife is all around us this time of year," says Frank Quevedo, executive director of the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center (SOFO) in Bridgehampton. "We see arctic visitors like snowy owls, snow bunting, seals, and many sea ducks that call Long Island home in the winter."

He also points out that some local critters also find the winter somewhat … romantic, adding, "Many other year-round resident wildlife come out in the winter and head to breeding vernal ponds such as eastern-tiger salamanders, spotted salamanders, and wood frogs."

Spotting wildlife can be tricky, but some area organizations provide outdoor tours that help us get a potential look at animals that thrive when much of life on Long Island is waiting on spring.

"The reaction we get from participants is the surprise that so many animals can be seen during the winter," continues Quevedo, "and the smiles it brings to many faces, especially children."

For a chance to spot some of the animals that are active this season, try one of these tours. Be sure to dress for the weather.


The SOFO event calendar is full of guided tours that take place around the East End and focus on a variety of animal life. The month of February brings winter wildlife tours such as Quevedo leading a Winter Sea Ducks birding search at Montauk Point (Feb. 5), an Eastern Tiger Salamander search on the museum grounds (Feb. 12), a Seal Walk (Feb. 13) and a Nighttime Owl Prowl (Feb. 16). March will also feature salamander strolls (March 5, 12, 19), a Woolly Bear Caterpillar walk (March 13) and a search for waterfowl off Southampton’s Dune Road (March 19).

INFO 631-537-9735; Fee to participate is $15, $10 ages 3-12, two and under are free; reservations must be made in advance. Not all tours are open to children and locations vary per tour; check the website for details.


Founded by a group of specialists in environmental and marine mammal sciences, as well in preservation and education, this nonprofit conducts research to help promote the conservation of coastal ecosystems and provide learning experiences. The organization will lead several seal walks through May 11 at Cupsogue Beach County Park. Those who take part can look forward to possibly seeing pinnipeds like harbor seals, gray seals and harp seals. The walks are timed to see the animals resting on sandbars.

INFO 975 Dune Rd., Westhampton Beach; 631-319-6003, Advance registration is required; donations of $5 per adult, $3 ages 18 and younger are not required but recommended.


While most frosty nature jaunts take place on the East End, this company sets sail from Freeport, with a search for harbor seals within Hempstead Bay. Each journey will have a naturalist aboard to chat about the biology of seals and other marine life. The vantage point from a boat is unique for sure, but it also offers the advantage of a heated cabin should the search chill you out more than preferred, where snacks and drinks like hot chocolate and coffee are also available for purchase (cash only). Trips are usually held Saturdays and Sundays through April 10, but cruises are also scheduled for Feb. 21-25 and March 11, 14-17.

INFO 31 Woodcleft Ave., Freeport; 516-544-6698, Rates are $39, $34 for children 12 and younger.


Long Island is dotted with state parks, which often offer unadulterated looks at nature, from woodlands and streams to beaches and oceans. Several winter walks with a focus on spotting wildlife are scheduled at these spaces throughout the month of March, such as the Winter Water Walk at Caumsett State Historic Park Preserve (25 Lloyd Harbor Rd., Lloyd Harbor; 631-423-1770), which will focus on observing winter waterfowl at the beach, as will the "Winter Bird Walk" at Sunken Meadow State Park (the northern end of Sunken Meadow Pkwy., Kings Park; 631-581-1072), both on March 6. There are also a number of seal walks scheduled for Jones Beach State Park (West End 2, 150 Bay Pkwy., Wantagh; 516-809-8222,, with most happening Fridays through Sundays in February and March (until March 27).

INFO Reservations are required; space is limited. Some walks are $4 cash per person to be paid upon arrival and some walks are for adults only; check the park websites for more information.


Featuring hundreds of acres of protected space, this nonprofit nature preserve has more than seven miles of nature trails that are open daily, from sunrise to sunset, for no fee (though donations are appreciated). The grounds hold many habitats, ranging from a tidal estuary and wetlands to bogs, a field and pine barrens. Full Moon Hikes are offered monthly, with the next taking place on Feb. 15. Each hike involves looking and listening for nocturnal animals while walking under the full moon through a forest to the refuge’s North Pond.

INFO 3 Old Country Rd., Quogue; 631-653-4771, $20, reservations required and must be made at least 24 hours in advance. For ages 12 and older.