VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — While winter might not make for the best beach weather in Hampton Roads, there is one creature that is enjoying Virginia's shorelines: seals!
Officials at The Virginia Aquarium said its Stranding Response Team receives dozens of calls each year reporting the location of seals on the beach, which is helpful for population surveys and research. From 2017 to 2018, the aquarium said it received 33 reports of seal sightings across Hampton Roads.
A viewer sent 13News Now photos of one such seal sunbathing on Chicks Beach Wednesday afternoon.
Virginia Aquarium staff said it is normal behavior for seals to haul out onto beaches and rocky outcroppings to rest, and approaching these animals is dangerous for humans, as well as the seal.
If you do spot a seal on the beach, you're urged to let it be, and also keep any dogs away from the animal.
"If they're approached they can bite, they can carry diseases that people and their pets can catch, it's best just to leave them alone and let them be wild animals," said Sue Barco, Senior Research Scientist at the Virginia Aquarium.
Seals are protected by federal law and should not be approached or harassed. If threatened, seals may bite people or other animals. It is important to keep these animals wild, and feeding seals may result in them associating people with food, officials say.
Anyone who sees a seal is asked to call the Stranding Response Program at 757-385-7575 as soon as possible, regardless of the animal’s condition.