New York’s marine waters are home to a diverse group of wildlife, including whales, seals, sea turtles, and much more! During the winter months many of these animals are migrating south along the Atlantic coast, passing through our waters and potentially resting along our beaches.
For the safety of both yourself and the animals, please remember the following guidance if you encounter one of these animals in the wild:
Sea Turtles should already have moved south to warmer waters by this time of the year. Unfortunately, many sea turtles don’t migrate soon enough and are left stranded in dangerously cold waters. This is known as being ‘cold-stunned’, which can cause the turtle to wash up on our beaches and experience decreased heart rate and circulation, eventually resulting in shock, pneumonia, and potentially death. Please do not touch the animal or attempt to put the animal back in the water. Animals that appear to be dead may still be able to be revived, so please call the stranding hotline as soon as possible (see below).
Seals can typically be seen along our shoreline from December until March. The most common seals seen are harbor and gray seals. If you see a seal on land, please remember you must remain at least 50 yards away at all times. Sign up for guided seal walks offered through Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island for opportunities to safely and responsibly observe seals at Cupsogue Beach County Park.
Whales, specifically Humpbacks and North Atlantic right whales, are the most encountered whale species off of New York’s shores during the winter months. These animals are migrating south and following schools of baitfish as they move along our coast. If you see a whale while boating, please remember to remain 150 feet away from North Atlantic right whales, and 100 feet away from all other large whales at all times.
If you see an injured, stranded, or entangled marine mammal or sea turtle in New York, immediately call the NYS Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Stranding Hotline at 631-369-9829. If you leave a voice message, be sure to include specific directions and information, including your name and phone number so the responders can call back if they have any questions. The hotline will forward your information to one of our two stranding groups, theAtlantic Marine Conservation Society or The Riverhead Foundation, depending on what type of animal it is and the status of the animal.