As the weather cools down and Hatteras Island beaches become deserted, a seasonal visitor begins to make an appearance along the Outer Banks coastline: harbor seals.
From January through March, seal sightings are not uncommon on any of the island’s beaches. Taking a break from the rough waves and tricky ocean conditions, the seals literally hurl themselves onto the beach for a little R&R before returning back into the ocean. Their stay on the sand can last anywhere from an hour to a few days, depending on how much rest they need.
If you spot one, feel free to take as many photos as you’d like, but be sure you maintain a safe distance. These seals might be as cute as can be, but they are wild animals, and can attack if they feel threatened. Besides, after a long swim in the Atlantic, they come to Hatteras Island for the same reason that human visitors do – to relax and take a load off, and they might not appreciate the interruption of their rest.
For the best chance of seal spotting, keep your eyes peeled along the beach as the weather cools down, particularly from late December through early February. In 2008, seals were spotted from Rodanthe to Hatteras, although the Buxton beaches Cape Point and South Beach had the most seal sightings. A generally happy and content seal will be situated in the “banana pose” with their head and tail standing up into the air. Keep your distance, but be sure and have a camera handy, and enjoy one of Hatteras Island’s beaches’ favorite wintertime visitors.