The three-month-old pup was named "Peconic" after a nearby river and is currently being held at a rehabilitation center until he's ready to be returned to his natural habitat.
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harbor seal pup on beach
Credit: lu-pics / Getty Images

Imagine spotting a baby seal wandering down the road during your morning commute! That was the reality for residents of Long Island, New York, who found a three-month old seal pup meandering through traffic in the town of Riverhead last week. The sea animal, who has since been named "Peconic" after a nearby river, was seen waddling by a gas station, through the parking lot of a local storefront, and intro shrubs at a nearby hotel.

Local police said they received a call around 6:30 a.m. from someone reporting a seal on the loose in a nearby parking lot. The responding officers found Peconic moving through the roadway and looked after him until the New York Marine Rescue Center was able to take over. "These animals start wandering up the beach paths and end up kind of in human territory," Maxine Montello, rescue program director for the NYMRC, told Riverhead News-Review. "So we do see it happen quite a lot. We've picked up these little gray seals in people's backyards, near roadsides, they've traveled pretty far, you know, several miles at one time. So it's not too abnormal."

While it's not uncommon for Montello's organization to receive calls about seals making their way to land, incidents in which the animal traveled as far as Peconic did are rare. Upon arriving to the scene, employees from the rescue group were able to lure the baby seal into a carrier bag and bring him back to the rehabilitation center. After an initial evaluation they determined that the animal is a three-month-old male gray harbor seal pup weighing about 50 pounds.

While Peconic didn't seem to have suffered any external injuries, the rescue center held him for observation until he was ready to return to the water. "Our policy is that if we're not able to get to the animal to the beach without putting our hands on it then we do usually bring them back to our facility for an assessment," Montello says. After a week in recovery, Peconic was fitted with a tracker and released back into the ocean where workers will track whether he migrates back into his habitat naturally.

It's thought that the pup was foraging on alewives in the Peconic River before straying too far away from the water. Montello warns people not to touch the animal if you ever stumble across one away from its natural habitat. "They're federally protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which requires people to stay a minimum of 150 feet away," she told Riverhead News-Review. "They are wild animals and though they're so cute and small, it's critical for people to call our 24 hour hotline to report these individuals."

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