Nineteen species of marine mammals, including whales, porpoises, dolphins, and seals, have been recorded within the boundary of Fire Island National Seashore.
A number of baleen whales may be found in New York State waters, including finback, minke, Sei, Humpback, and North Atlantic right whales. This includes three endangered species, the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), finback whales (Balaenoptera physalus), and humpback whales (Megaptera novaeanglidae). These whales spend the winter breeding and rearing calves in warmer, more southern waters. In late spring these animals migrate north to feed in colder, more nutrient rich waters teeming with krill - their primary food source. Whales are elusive creatures and are not easy to see off the coast of Fire Island but may be seen during spring, summer, or fall.
The group of mammals that includes whales also includes dolphins and porpoises. Species such as harbor porpoises (Phocoena phocoena), common dolphins (Delphinus delphis), Atlantic white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus), and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates) may be spotted in offshore waters.
During the spring adult seals and pups recently weaned from their mothers can occasionally be seen resting on Fire Island's beaches or swimming just offshore. Common seal species include Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), harp seals (Phoca groenlandica), grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), ringed seals (Pusa hispida), and hooded seals (Cystophora cristata).These animals may come ashore to molt, get warm from the sun, avoid rough waters, or even just to rest after a long day of hunting fish.
Should you find marine mammals on a Fire Island beach, please keep your distance. Report sightings to The Riverhead Foundation's 24-Hour Hotline at 631-369-9892.