By Carla Zanoni and Michael Ventura
INWOOD — A seal was spotted on an Inwood beach Wednesday afternoon.
The gray seal lounged in the sand by the Hudson River shoreline near Dyckman Street at the Dyckman Marina.
Police at the scene said they were told by marine biologists that the seal was not ill or in distress, but cordoned off the area to protect the animal.
They assumed the seal would make its way back into the river when the tide came in.
"Currently we are monitoring this animal and have the urban park rangers reporting back to us in the morning," Rob DiGiovanni, director and senior biologist at the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, said in an email.
He stressed that people should remain at least 50 yards away from the seal and not disturb it.
"Over the season we have seen an increase in seals throughout the region and more sighting in the NYC area," he wrote.
Inwood resident Marcus Dilan, 48, said he was not surprised to see a seal at the beach, although he was intrigued enough to walk 15 blocks to snap photos of the doe-eyed mammal.
"Inwood has all sorts of wildlife," he said, listing deer, raccoons and eagles. "That's what makes it so special, you don't have stuff like this in Midtown."
Indeed, this is not the first time a seal has been spotted on the shores of Inwood. In the spring of 2009, a harbor seal rested on the Columbia University boathouse pier in Inwood Hill Park for several hours over the course of two to three weeks.
According to Richard Simon, an Urban Park Ranger captain, seals were once regular habitants of the area and so abundant that local fisherman perceived them as competition for fish and hunted them down to low levels during the early 20th century.
Simon said seals have slowly made a comeback over the past 20 years, which with some crediting Congress passing the Marine Mammal Protection Act during the 70s.