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3 marine mammals found on LI beaches

A gray seal found lying on Tobay Beach

A gray seal found lying on Tobay Beach in Oyster Bay Town appears to be healthy, authorities said. (May 3, 2012) Credit: Thomas Judge

Three marine animals have been found on Long Island's beaches in the past 24 hours -- a dead whale and dead dolphin in the Hamptons, and a live gray seal on the Oyster Bay town beach, authorities said Thursday.

The two dead mammals were discovered washed up on eastern Long Island beaches and the causes of death are so far unknown, experts said Thursday.

Rob DiGiovanni, director and senior biologist for the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, said it is unusual for either a pygmy whale or a white-sided dolphin to be found dead on Long Island beaches, and particularly two on the same day.

The underweight, 600-pound pygmy sperm whale was found dead on a Westhampton Beach during the day Wednesday, and a 400-pound white sided dolphin was discovered on a Sagaponack beach that evening.

DiGiovanni said there is no indication that the two deaths are related. "If there are any commonalities, it's too early to say."

A necropsy will be performed on each animal Friday at the foundation's headquarters in Riverhead, he said.

The female whale had probably been dead about a week, and the male dolphin a shorter amount of time, he said. Neither had obvious signs of injury.

Authorities said they'll continue checking on the seal, but so far, it appears fine.

Fishermen who were surfcasting on Tobay Beach reported spotting a seal about 600 feet west of the main beach pavilion and called Nassau police about 7:19 p.m., authorities said.

Authorities said it was a gray seal, not unusual at this time of year in western Nassau, and about 4 feet long.

"It appeared to be doing what healthy seals do," said Seventh Precinct Officer Thomas Judge, who's come across about a half dozen seals in his 31-year career. "It wasn't hissing, it wasn't barking. It didn't appear to be in any pain. . . . It was lying on its side and when I walked up, it was lying on its belly. It looked at me."

Judge snapped some photos, which the Riverhead Foundation viewed and decided was a gray seal about a year or so old.DiGiovanni said the foundation had received a report of a seal about 8 a.m. Thursday in the same vicinity. After looking at the seal, he said, the patrol deemed ithealthy.

It's not clear if the seal was the same one found Thursday night, the biologist said, but the patrol will monitor the animal for a day or two.

"It's not super uncommon to have them up on the beaches," he said. "We're just starting to see more animals farther west and more on Long Island in the last couple years, so we're getting more and more sightings of these animals.

"We call that hauling out. They haul out usually at low tide and it's not uncommon for them to . . . just sun themselves and rest," DiGiovanni said.

But he warned that people should stay at least 50 yards away for their own safety and the animals'.

The beach closed at dusk, Judge said, so the seal should be undisturbed by humans overnight: "The beach is closed. It's locked up and there's patrol there. The seal is quite safe."

The Riverhead Foundation is a nonprofit organization that operates the New York State Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Rescue Program. Its stated primary mission is to preserve and protect the marine environment through education, rehabilitation, and research.

DiGiovanni said people can call its hotline, 631-369-9829, to report unusual sightings of marine life on the beach or update the foundation if the animals become distressed.


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