Beachgoers spotted the seal resting on the sand at Ponte Vedra Beach on Monday.
Harbor seals are typically located in Alaska, California, the coast of Oregon and Washington, inland Washington and western North Atlantic. However, the population in New England is also increasing, NOAA reports, but have been occasionally spotted as far south as the Carolinas.
"They have long been considered non-migratory and typically stay within 15 to 31 miles of home," the agency said, "but telemetry data have shown they sometimes travel 62 to 249 miles from their tagging location."
Photo credit: Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
As far as sightings in Florida, according to the NOAA Fisheries Service, "While this is not an everyday occurrence in Florida, it is normal for seals to rest on the beach alone. They often haul out for multiple days before returning to the ocean for food."
While their appearance in Florida is indeed rare, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says it's happened before.
"Yes! Occasionally we may have a seal visit our coastal waters," FWC's Fish and Wildlife Research Institute said on its Facebook page.
FWC biologists responded to the beach, and said the agency works with partners, volunteers and NOAA to monitor the animals.
"People are often concerned when they see these young animals alone, but these animals are independent, solitary creatures at this stage of life," FWC said. "Juvenile seals often have a few cuts and scrapes but resting on the beach is part of their normal behavior."
WJXT reports that a fisherman spotted a seal near the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve in St. Johns County back in 2018. However, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials couldn't locate it.
The agency said if you spot a seal, don’t approach it.
"The more they’re disturbed, the less rest they’ll get."
FWC said anyone who sees a seal should stay at least 50 yards away to give the animal the appropriate amount of space.
Harbor seal spotted at north Florida beach. (Photo credit: Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission)
NOAA offered the following tips:
Give the seal at least 50 yards of space
Limit your time watching the seal
Keep dogs on a leash to keep the seal and your dog safe
Report marine mammal sightings to 877-WHALE-HELP, or to FWC's hotline, 888-404-3922.
You can learn more about harbor seals by visiting NOAA’s website.