‘Right place, right time.’ Stamford officer recalls helping lost seal after social media video takes off

Cove Island Park in Stamford is known for its wide diversity of wildlife. But on Thursday afternoon, an unexpected visitor stopped by—a young seal, who spent several hours lost on land.

Marissa Alter

Feb 19, 2024, 11:46 PM

Updated 55 days ago

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Cove Island Park in Stamford is known for its wide diversity of wildlife. But on Thursday afternoon, an unexpected visitor stopped by—a young seal, who spent several hours lost on land.
“In the summer, you will see seals sunning themselves off the shore of our town. They just don't generally come ashore,” said Stamford Park Police Officer Peter Gould.
Except this one did. Residents at the park called it in to Stamford police. Animal control responded and contacted Mystic Aquarium, which does marine life rescues when needed.
“Mystic sent a volunteer over to assess, and then they said, ‘Well, the seal may return to the water on its own. If it doesn't, we'll send a team tomorrow.’ That would've been Friday,” Gould recalled.
Gould said he started his shift that evening and went to check things out.
“There was at that point one person left—one volunteer—whose name is Mike Nastri. He’s a wildlife photographer, and Mr. Nastri had taken a series of photographs that had gone back to Mystic as well. They'd determined this is a juvenile gray seal, old enough to be on its own but still very young, and the status was still to wait until morning,” Gould told News 12.
Gould stated the seal was in the middle of the park, nowhere near the water, and he grew concerned.
“It really scared me for the seal's well-being on the overnight if they weren't going to have somebody there,” Gould explained. “It was right at that moment that I realized the seal was coming towards my patrol car. They don't move easily on land, so it would move for a bit, and then it would rest. And then it would move for a bit, and then it would rest."
Gould was worried his cruiser was in the seal’s way, so he moved it and found the seal followed. That’s when he had the idea to move the car to the water’s edge to see if the seal would change direction too. Sure, enough the seal did, though very slowly. Gould estimated it took about an hour of starting and stopping until the seal made it into Long Island Sound.
“Eventually it caught sight of the water, and then it forgot all about the car and went right for the Sound, took a couple minutes to sort of collect itself at the waterline and went in,” he told News 12.
The incident was a first for Gould, now in his 45th year with the department. But it's not surprising he was ready to help. Gould was a licensed wildlife rehabilitator as a teenager, though not for marine animals.
“I mean, if you go back to the 70s, I was raising baby raccoons with a baby bottle,” Gould said with a laugh. “Right place, right time. It was absolutely a stroke of luck. I couldn't have done anything more than anybody else if it didn't happen that the seal was attracted to the car."
Gould shot footage of the seal’s journey and put together a video for the department’s social media, which has taken off.
“At the moment, it’s had 40,000 views, been picked up by the major news networks. We've gotten huge reaction to that post, way beyond anything that I expected,” Gould said. “It had a happy ending, and as it says at the end of the video, we love happy endings. Don't you?"
Gould also told News 12 it’s against the law to make contact with a marine animal except for specialized rescue teams. That's why it was best to let the seal find its way home.


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