Officials considering 'rescue attempt' for seal

·2 min read

Sep. 21—BEVERLY — Officials are considering whether to mount a "rescue attempt" for the seal that has been hanging out in Shoe Pond in Beverly for the last several days.

Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration went out on the pond in a rowboat Wednesday morning and divers from the Beverly Fire Department entered the water to assess a possible pathway out for the seal.

Ainsley Smith, the marine mammal stranding coordinator for NOAA's Greater Atlantic Regional Fisheries Office in Gloucester, said the seal is in no danger, but officials are looking at various options "if a rescue attempt is needed."

"It's clearly moving around just fine," Smith said. "Our big concern is we'd like it to scoot itself before it gets too habituated."

The seal, which has been nicknamed Shoebert and has attracted curious onlookers every day, made its way last week from the ocean to the Bass River and through a culvert that leads to the lower of two ponds at Cummings Center. On Tuesday, the seal climbed over a raised public walkway that separates the two ponds and crashed through a small wire fence to get into the upper pond.

Smith said officials are considering whether to open a gate to a dam between the two ponds to allow the seal to swim back down to the lower pond, and then hopefully head back to the ocean the way it came.

Cummings Center General Manager Steve Drohosky said the seal was curious about the rowboat, so it could possibly be lured by the boat to head through the dam and back to the lower pond.

Two divers from the Beverly Fire Department dive team, Derek Belanger and Jesse Spause, went into the water to make sure there were no obstructions that would prevent the seal from passing through the dam.

Officials have put up yellow tape and signs to keep people from getting too close to the seal. NOAA officials have been handing out cards with "seal viewing guidelines," which include staying at least 150 feet away, keeping quiet, and not feeding the seal.

Smith said there are plenty of fish and lots of space for the seal in the pond. She said NOAA is coordinating plans with the Beverly Animal Control office, the Beverly Fire Department and Cummings Center.

"There's no rush on our part," she said.

Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, pleighton@gloucestertimes.com, or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.