Shoebert the Seal has moved into a freshwater pond in Boston, baffling experts

A harbor seal has taken up residence in a freshwater pond in the city of Beverly, Massachusetts, and it’s still unclear how exactly it got there.

The seal has proved hugely popular with locals since it was first noticed in Shoe Pond on September 15, prompting officials to issue warnings not to approach the animal.

The seal is now something of a local celebrity, and officials refer to it as a Shoebert.

Seals are predominantly saltwater animals. Gray seals are found throughout the North Atlantic and an estimated 450,000 live in the waters of Canada and the United States.

Shoebert's seal
A photo of Shoebert the seal emerging from a Boston pond was posted to Facebook by NOAA Fisheries New England/Mid-Atlantic on September 19, 2022. The seal has become a local celebrity.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA Fisheries New England/Mid-Atlantic/Facebook

In Shoebert’s case, it is believed that at high tide the seal managed to get to the lower part of Shoe Pond via a tunnel connecting to the harbor, local news station 7News WHDH Boston reports.

However, it is unclear how the seal then got into the upper part of the pond.

In any case, Shoebert lives in freshwater now, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Division has said the seal appears to be healthy. Because the pond contains fish, Shoebert also has a supply of food.

“At this time, it is best not to disturb the seal as it is healthy and behaving normally,” NOAA Fisheries New England/Mid-Atlantic wrote on Facebook Sept. 19. “We will continue to work with the City of Beverly to monitor the seal and as the seal’s condition changes, they will review options that are in the best interests of the animal.”

See posts, photos and more on Facebook.

It was initially hoped that the Shoebert would find its way out of the pond, with NOAA noting that the harbor seal had demonstrated the ability to pull itself out of a wall multiple times, suggesting it could exit the area when ready is.

However, as of September 22, the seal still hadn’t left the area on its own, so officials decided to take matters into their own hands.

The Beverly Fire Department tweeted that day that NOAA was “considering plans for a possible relocation” to ensure the safety of Shoebert and the public. “Please keep your distance, at least 50 meters,” tweeted the fire department. “Seals can be aggressive.”

A photo posted to Twitter by local journalist Stanley Forman showed responders lining the pond’s shore with giant nets while an officer waited in a rowboat.

Ultimately, the rescue attempt failed.

“Shoebert knew something was wrong!” the Beverly Fire Department tweeted Thursday night. “We think the nets were a little giveaway.”

For now, the seal’s vacation in Beverly continues, but with authorities actively trying to move the animal to a more suitable location, the local star’s time there appears to be limited.

The public was warned to stay behind all fences and barriers for their own safety and not to feed Shoebert or any other seals. Shoebert the Seal has moved into a freshwater pond in Boston, baffling experts

Rick Schindler

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