OCEAN CITY, New Jersey -- A wayward baby seal spotted wandering down a roadway in Ocean City, New Jersey, is now safe thanks to the help of some good Samaritans and rescuers from the Marine Mammal Stranding Center.
The MMSC says it received the first of many calls around 5 p.m. Wednesday after the male gray seal pup hauled out from the bay at West Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets.
"MMSC's Stranding Coordinator immediately responded as residents kept our team updated with the pup's movements throughout the neighborhood," the center said in a Facebook post.
After moving through a backyard and a sidewalk, the pup began traveling in the middle of 42nd Street, where witnesses say he had a "close call" with a car.
An officer from the OCPD blocked traffic as the "determined" seal continued down the road and crossed multiple intersections.
The seal was on the move for about 20 minutes, covering about a quarter-mile in the direction of the ocean. Video from witness Michael Trojak showed part of the seal's journey.
"I've seen a lot in the ocean but certainly none on land before," Trojak said. "Not in the middle of West Avenue in Ocean City."
The MMSC's stranding coordinator caught the pup within about 100 yards of the beach ramp. The center said the seal, which is about four to six weeks old, was "quite exhausted" and underweight.
"He was making some noises, and I think it was really like a warning noise to try to stay away from him because he was certainly stressed out. You could tell," Trojak said.
Experts think the baby seal may have slipped onto the roadway during high tide and then got stranded.
"He just gets up on the road. Unfortunately, he made his way heading in the right direction but he really had no way to get over the boardwalk," said Stranding Coordinator Jay Pagel.
The pup was taken to the MMSC's ICU and given a tube-feeding mixture of formula and an electrolyte solution for hydration.
The center said this is the second seal it has rescued from a roadway this season, saying it is a "good reminder to be careful driving in our shore communities, especially during coastal flood advisories as you never know what you may come across."
The MMSC said it has had many cases of grey seals taking a wrong turn and wandering up beach access paths to backyards, parking lots and roadways.
"Typically, we see at least one case of a wayward pup stranding in an unusual location every seal season," the center said. "These pups are born on islands, so when they get lost, their instinct is to keep wandering until they find a body of water."
As the winter continues, especially if storms come through, the stranding center wants people to report any seals that might be in trouble. The number to call is (609) 266-0538.
"We have over 400 people that volunteer and help out with us, they've all gone through training. We can dispatch one of them to the scene, they can take a look at the animal and get photos, get us a description and we can look and see if it's an animal we need to take care of or we can just observe them a little bit longer," Pagel said.
Seals are federally protected. The stranding center reminds you to stay back at least 150 feet if you see one.
As cute as they are, don't try to help them yourself or get up close to take photos.