The Dos and Don'ts of Seal Season on the Outer Banks

Seals on a journey to warmer water are stopping to lounge along the North Carolina coast.

Seal pup on the beach
Photo: Ian_Sherriffs/Getty Images

There are a million reasons to love the Outer Banks. In addition to beautiful beaches and rich local culture, North Carolina's barrier islands boast a variety of unique wildlife.

Aside from the wild horses—arguably the region's most famous full-time residents—the Outer Banks also hosts a number of transient creatures throughout the year. Its sandy shores provide a safe haven for nesting sea turtles in spring and summer and a rest stop for migratory birds in fall and winter.

And now, as they make their way South to warmer water, seals are popping up along the coastline.

According to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, visitors may encounter seals over the next several months.

"Seals typically haul out on beaches to rest after a period of feeding in the ocean," the seashore explained on Facebook last week alongside a photo of a cute harbor seal lounging in the sand.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore urged visitors to be "responsible observers," and shared guidelines to help protect both humans and seals.

Seals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which prohibits people from getting closer than 50 yards. Like wild horses, it is against the law to touch, feed, or otherwise harass them. You can, however, enjoy them from a distance.

WATCH: Outer Banks Officials Issue Dire Warning After Young Wild Horse Chokes on Apple, Dies

It's not uncommon for beachgoers to be concerned that a motionless seal is in trouble, but rest assured, the semiaquatic mammal is most likely taking a much-needed break.

When in doubt, Island Free Press recommends looking for the "banana pose," when a seal's tail and head are up in the air, like a banana. This somewhat comical position means the seal is "happily relaxing and comfortable."

That's the kind of energy we like to see going into 2021!

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles