Seal Travels 1,000 Miles Down East Coast to Escape Winter Weather

PHOTO: A seal, likely from the New England area, was spotted on Lea Island in Hempstead, North Carolina, Feb. 17, 2016. PlayCourtesy Chandra Covil
WATCH Seal Travels 1,000 Miles Down East Coast to Escape Winter Weather

In a rare sighting, two 15-year-old kids recently caught an adorable seal on photo and video while exploring a barrier island in Hampstead, North Carolina -- 1,000 miles south of where such animals are typically found.

Topsail High School students Ryan Covil and Gianni Buffalino were boating around Lea-Hutaff Island on Wednesday afternoon when they made the "stunning" discovery, according to Ryan's mother, Chandra Covil.

"No one around here ever sees anything like this," Chandra told ABC News today. "My son, who's an avid fisherman and knows these waters pretty good, was shocked himself. It was amazing."

The seal was caught on photo basking in the sun on the beach and was later caught on video returning to the ocean.

PHOTO: Ryan Covil, 15, and Gianni Buffalino, 15, found a seal from the New England area on Lea Island in Hempstead, North Carolina, on Feb. 17, 2016.Courtesy Chandra Covil
Ryan Covil, 15, and Gianni Buffalino, 15, found a seal from the New England area on Lea Island in Hempstead, North Carolina, on Feb. 17, 2016.

Chandra said she and her family immediately went online to try to identify the seal. They originally thought the marine mammal looked like a northern fur seal, which is typically found on the other side of the world, in Alaska.

However, the seal is likely a grey or harbor seal, according to Jeff Harms, an educator at the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores.

Grey and harbor seals are usually from the New England area, but "a few migrate further south during winter every year to escape the ice up north," Harms told ABC News today.

"They're fairly uncommon," he said. "Usually, they're young ones hauling out here to warm up and reset on the warmer beaches."

Harms said he noticed the seal in the kids' video looked a little thin but appeared otherwise healthy.

PHOTO: A seal, likely from the New England area, was spotted on Lea Island in Hempstead, North Carolina, Feb. 17, 2016. Courtesy Chandra Covil
A seal, likely from the New England area, was spotted on Lea Island in Hempstead, North Carolina, Feb. 17, 2016.

"If anyone spots a seal on a beach, it's nice to let the Marine Mammal Stranding Network or aquarium know, so we can send someone out to watch it and make sure it isn't injured and it's protected," he said.

Harms added that though the seals "look really cute and cuddly," they're actually "predators with sharp teeth," so he doesn't recommend trying "to take close-up selfies."

"It's really cool to spot one and take a picture, but don't get too close since it could stress the animal and also put you in danger," he said.