By Kim Glovas

AVALON, N.J. (CBS) — Seals have been appearing lately on South Jersey shore beaches, and animal experts are warning people to stay away.

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Robert Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center, in Brigantine, says seals of various species — mostly harbor, grey, harp, hooded, and an occasional ringed — are going out to feed on migrating mackerel and herring, then sunning themselves on the beach to warm up from the frigid ocean temperatures.

And as air temperatures warm up, humans are heading to the beaches, too.  But Schoelkopf says this could be a bad mix.

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“We had pictures from a gentleman that let his children sit right next to (a seal) to get pictures taken,” he recalls, “and if that seal had turned around and bitten them, they’d be in a lot of pain and have very costly medical bill.”

Schoelkopf says that for the most part, these seals are not in trouble.  Still, he is urging people to take photos from a safe distance and send them to the Stranding Center so workers there can assess the situation and, if necessary, take steps to protect the seals and/or the humans.

Seals were sighted on beaches at Avalon, Ventnor, Long Beach Island, Bayville, and Avon by the Sea.

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