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Cute Alert: A Seal Hits Rockaway Beach

We may have the Polar Vortex to thank for its adorable appearance on the shores of Queens.

Animal stories in New York City aren't always cheery, because much of the city's environment isn't exactly hospitable to wildlife. This is particularly true in the case of marine mammals, which sometimes find themselves in New York waters already ill or otherwise distressed.

That was the case with a dolphin that died in Brooklyn's filthy Gowanus Canal just over a year ago, with a crowd of concerned citizens looking on (one man even dared to climb down a ladder to the edge of the canal, which is a Superfund site, to look into the dolphin’s eyes as it passed away). A minke whale, nicknamed Sludgie, met a similar sad end just a couple of miles farther out in the harbor back in 2007.

But this week, residents of New York were treated to a much happier sighting when an unbearably cute young harp seal hauled out onto Rockaway Beach to molt its coat on the sandy shores of Queens. Captured in a couple of Vine videos by DNAInfo's Katie Honan, the adorable little guy is one of 25 harp seals reported this year to the Riverhead Foundation, a marine animal rescue outfit.

We may have the polar vortex to thank. "It does seem to correlate with the colder weather," Kim Durham, Riverhead's rescue program director told DNAInfo, which first posted the videos. "We've had a very pronounced winter this year. The last time we did see these animals it was a brutal winter."

Seals have been making a strong comeback in New York waters in recent years, as they have been all up and down coastal Northeast waters (to the annoyance of many fishermen in the region). In January, one seal rode an ice floe up the tidal East River at least as far as 110th Street, demonstrating one of the more unusual ways to get uptown.

Seal sightings may be increasingly common, but they are still novel enough to warm the hearts of even the most jaded New Yorkers. Cuteness this intense is almost impossible to resist.

About the Author

  • Sarah Goodyear has written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog. She lives in Brooklyn.