Large amount of seals off Eastham beaches draws shark concerns

What draws a great white shark to shore better than a group of seals?

In recent years, a large amount of seals have been scattered across the coast of Cape Cod, officials from the Cape Cod National Seashore said.

But this year, Eastham has seen an unusually high density of the animals on its beaches since the summer began, putting worst-case shark scenarios into the minds of surfers and beachgoers.

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Brian Voke, a Boston lawyer who has a home in Eastham, has seen groups of 50 or 60 seals perched on the coast, and worries about the safety of himself and his 12-year-old son when they go surfing in the chilly water.

Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro, near the tip of the Cape, often sees groups of 400 or 500 seals resting on the shore. Further south, near Monomoy Beach, 10,000 seals can sometimes be seen at once, said Jason Taylor, the chief of natural resources for the National Seashore.

Other beaches along the coast will often see groups of a dozen or so at a time. So, it is odd that Eastham is seeing much higher numbers of the animals, Taylor said.

And as one would expect, the seals have attracted ocean visitors. On Sept. 15, a shark attacked and ate a seal off of Eastham. The National Seashore does not have any more recent attacks recorded because it was closed due to the shutdown of the government.

“The notion that some child is going to be eaten is unnerving,” said Voke, who has a friend that captured a photo of a grievously injured seal Monday. Voke believes it was victim to a hungry shark.

“There are more seals in the water than people,” said Voke. He said he might have to tell his son they can no longer ride the waves.

“There have been occasions when surfers have been eaten,” said Leslie Reynolds, chief ranger for the Seashore. But, she explained that in most attacks on humans, sharks will take one bite and spit it out, as they desire seals and not people.

Reynolds said to stay safe in seal-populated waters and “don’t isolate yourself and make yourself an easy target.”