Pamela Lanigan was going on her usual morning jog in East Atlantic Beach on April 10 when she saw something washed up on the beach.
As she ran closer, she saw a gray seal caught in a tangled fishing net with two large sinkers attached.
“It was hissing at me, and I was talking to him,” said Lanigan, recalling her efforts to calm the distressed animal. She called 911 and then the city of Long Beach, but said that neither immediately provided her with any water rescue contacts.
She began to panic and ran to her home on Bay Street to grab a pair of scissors.
“I never saw anything like it in my life,” Lanigan told the Herald. “I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.”
When she got back to the beach near Oswego Avenue, the seal had wiggled from its spot and was inches away from the water. She started cutting the net on its back.
“At that point, I saw a jogger coming towards me,” she said. Chuck Basore of East Atlantic Beach, a fellow jogger, stopped to help.
“We tried to get the rope off,” Lanigan said. “Its left flipper was cut because of the netting — rope burn.”
Her friend, Carmen Caruana, came to the beach with a Swiss army knife after Lanigan called her and told her what was happening. The three of them worked on cutting the net — for a total of thirty minutes — and the seal was freed.
“He went about 50 feet at first, bobbing around,” Lanigan said. “Then he went another 25 feet and he was gone.”
They waited another 20 minutes until a Long Beach police officer drove onto the beach, she said. The officer explained that someone from the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation would have taken an hour and a half to reach her, and would have had to transport the animal back to their facility.
The Riverhead Foundation eventually returned Lanigan’s call after the incident to request specific information, such as the weight of the seal and how long it was lying on the beach.
Lanigan’s Facebook post was picked up by Project 11561 and shared by Long Beach residents.
“If you told me I’d be saving a [gray] seal this morning,” Lanigan said on Facebook, “I wouldn’t believe you.”
Who to contact:
For more information about what to do if you see a washed up animal in distress, contact the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation on their 24-hour hotline at (631) 369-9829 or www.riverheadfoundation.org. You could also contact the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island Inc. (CRESLI) located in Sayville at (631) 319-6003.