Myrtle Beach got an early Christmas present this year with the appearance of a Harbor Seal multiple times throughout the month of December.
On Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, the creature was spotted for the first time near 32nd Avenue North in front of the Sea Captain’s House Restaurant. Locals, tourists, and emergency personnel were on the scene quickly, as was local media.
Dr. Robert Young, a marine science professor at Coastal Carolina who specializes in marine mammals, was on hand to help see if the seal was ill or injured.
“This is actually quite common to see Harbor Seals come ashore, and nothing seems to be life threatening.” Young said.
According to onlookers that were on the scene, the seal had an obvious injury on one of its flippers. While there was some speculation that the injury was caused by a shark, Young assured the crowd that the seal was okay and healthy.
“An injury, like this one, which looks minor could’ve been caused by anything in the ocean,” said Young. “I know that everyone is asking if it was a shark, but really seals, and this seal is so small that having a superficial injury like this is not uncommon.”
Young and Myrtle Beach Police set up a perimeter around the seal to give it space and to make sure that onlookers did not try to touch or move it.
Myrtle Beach became ‘seal central’ for the next week having seals spotted two days later on 63rd Avenue North and finally on Christmas Day near 80th Avenue North.
Caleigh Yore from Detroit, Michigan, was in town for Christmas and loved seeing the seal.
“It is just so neat,” said Yore. “You never really think of Myrtle Beach as having wildlife, so it's really cool.”
Conway resident Brittany Young brought her two kids to the beach on Christmas Day to see the seal in person.
“The kids love it!” said Young. “I mean what a story to tell about Christmas Vacation, ‘I got to see a seal!”
Three days later, on Dec. 22, a seal was spotted near 63rd Avenue in Myrtle Beach. Many thought it was the same seal while others speculated it may have been another seal. The debate on whether it was the same seal or a different seal continued as a seal was spotted several more times on Christmas Eve and then again on Dec. 26.