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Riverhead Foundation plans seal release in Hamptons this weekend

Ares is one of two male harbor seals

Ares is one of two male harbor seals rescued last year by the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation scheduled to be released on Jan. 17, 2016. Photo Credit: Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation

On Sunday morning, Ares and Hermes are expected to be found casually wobbling — or possibly eagerly scooting, as only frisky seals can do — down a Hampton Bays beach, making a return to their home waters.

Since fall, the two male harbor seals — a year or so old — have been residing in a home-away-from-home at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, where they were successfully rehabilitated, the foundation said Friday.

Ares, rescued Oct. 12 from a Quogue beach, had been found to be underweight and suffering from respiratory issues, the foundation said. Anticipating this year’s foundation theme of Greek mythology, he was named for the Greek god of war.

Hermes, named for the messenger god — who also was a bit of a trickster — was lethargic, with body wounds and a bleeding mouth, when he was rescued Nov. 8 from a Sagaponack beach, the foundation said.

In both cases, members of the public spotted the creatures and notified the foundation through its 24-hour hotline at 631-369-9829.

The release is planned for 11 a.m. Sunday from a beach area under Ponquogue Bridge.

“The fun part will be watching them return with the support of the public that joins us,” said spokeswoman Rachel Bosworth. “It’s always great watching them go back into the water.”

Both seals will be outfitted with satellite tags, so their further travels can be monitored, she said.

Should beach walkers ever come across any such creature, they should know to stay at least 50 yards away — that’s 150 feet — as getting closer or interfering in any way is against federal law, the foundation said. Still, sighting reports are most welcome.

The public’s hotline input in “letting us know what’s going on” is highly valued, said Robert A. DiGiovanni Jr., the foundation’s senior biologist and executive director, speaking earlier in the week about a different seal. “We just want to make sure they do it correctly,” by giving the creatures that wide berth.

The most abundant in New York area waters, harbor seals make good use of “their large eyes, acute hearing and sensitive whiskers” in hunting for prey, according to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation website.

Of all the seal-related calls that come in, the Riverhead Foundation might respond to around 100 or so a year.

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