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Seal pup seen swimming in Peconic River in Riverhead

Riverhead has a new town seal.

The old one, which reflects the town's agricultural history and shows a boat sailing up the Peconic River, adorns the town flag, is printed on every town board agenda, and hangs on the wall in town hall.

The new one merely swims up the Peconic River, barks a bit, and eats fish.

"I love the seal. It's my gift to the downtown area," quips Supervisor Sean Walter, who admits he actually had little to do with attracting the seal pup to the area.

The pinniped, difficult to spot when the rain-flooded Peconic runs swiftly through downtown Riverhead, has likely been attracted to Grangabel Park - a waterfront park off West Main Street - by the prospect of a free lunch: specifically, alewives.

Each spring, tens of thousands of the small fish swim up the river to spawn in its headwaters. Many small streams contribute to the river in Calverton, and some of the fish can be found as far west as Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton.

Town, state and federal officials recently spent $1 million to build a 190-foot-long sloping rock channel to replace the temporary aluminum fish ladder put out every spring so alewives can get over a small dam and up the river.

For now, the town just has one seal bobbing up and down in the Peconic, and it is waiting happily for a feast that could last for months.

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