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Going with the flow

JIM COLLIGAN PHOTO Off Shell Beach Monday.

The animal seen above, hitching a ride on an ice flow while sunbathing, is a harbor seal (Phoca vitulina), the most common marine mammal in our area, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

These delightful creatures weigh about 4 pounds at birth and will grow to 180 pounds and about 6 feet in length when they reach maturity. Their lifespan is about 30 years, according to the NOAA.

Threats to the seals, the NOAA reports, are entanglement in nets, “illegal feeding and harassment,” and degradation to their habitat by chemical contaminants, oil spills and “energy exploration.”

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