MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — A rare gray seal made its way to shore again in Horry County Wednesday, CBS Affiliate WBTW is reporting.
A Myrtle Beach Park ranger told the station the gray seal is under a year old and was released from the Virginia Aquarium after it was tagged.
The mammal was spotted around 11 a.m. Wednesday, and was still there Thursday morning. Park officials say the seal returned to the ocean around sunrise and they captured a photo..
Ben Santomassimo, a Myrtle Beach State Park ranger for two years, took a colorful sunrise photo of the seal Thursday morning as it left the park.
Gray seals are very rare in South Carolina, according to park officials. This one make its way to shore on Wednesday, Ssantomassimo says.
Wednesday, a WBTW photographer captured video the seal rolling around in the sand, stretching and scratching its chin as the sun went down.
Police made sure no one was able to get too close to the animal.
The seal's visit come three months after an harbor seal washed up near 30th Avenue North. SCDNR said that particlular seal appeared to have a shark bite injury to its flipper, WBTW reports.
In late December, a seal was spotted once again in Horry County. Officials at that time were not sure if it was the same seal as the one a few weeks prior.
Since the NOAA began counting in 1994, there have been fewer than 30 sightings of seals in South Carolina. The NOAA says harbor seals are usually found in the Atlantic Ocean from Canada to New York.
Dr. Rob Young, a marine scientist for Coastal Carolina University, told News13 in December that seals sometimes swim south when the water is colder.
"They're here every winter," said Dr. Young. "Usually, you see one or two at a time. A few years ago, we had a couple that would haul out regularly in Murrells Inlet on the jetties for several weeks. We had similar things in Little River."