Shoe Pond in Beverly has a new, unexpected resident.
Passersby first spotted a lone seal swimming in the 12-acre pond around noon on Thursday, according to Officer Michael Boccuzzi, a Beverly police spokesperson.
City officials said that, after consulting with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the recommendation was “to let the seal be.”
“The seal does not appear to be in any type of distress and has the ability when it is ready to go back into the river,” said Beverly Animal Control in a statement posted to Facebook. “There [are] plenty of fish and water in Shoe Pond for the seal to hang out for a while.”
The post urged residents to remain on the outside of the fence surrounding the pond, which is on private land owned by the Cummings Center, formerly the United Shoe Machinery Corp.
Officials ask people to refrain from feeding the wayward seal. It’s not clear how exactly the seal made it to the pond from the open sea, Boccuzzi said.
“They don’t know how the seal got there,” he said. “But they think that it got in through the [nearby] Bass River — maybe through one of the drainage pipes under Elliott Street.”
According to Lisa Sette, the seal research program manager at the Center for Coastal Studies, it’s not unusual to see saltwater seals enter freshwater bodies — even ones like Shoe Pond that are not directly next to the ocean.
“Seals roam,” she said. “They’re a highly mobile species. They have areas where they haul out and rest, areas where they forage. They move around a lot.”
After viewing photos taken by the Globe Saturday, Sette said the animal appeared to be a gray seal, “which are common throughout the area.”
Sette said it’s possible that Beverly’s newest resident was chasing fish up the Bass River estuary before ending up in Shoe Pond.
“At this time of year, there might be some type of fish run that it was responding to in the river,” she said. “We’re seeing them up in estuaries, foraging a lot.”
Although Shoe Pond has a population of fish for the seal to feed off, it’s not likely the marine mammal will stay for long, Sette said.
“[Seals] come up onto marshes and dunes and forested areas temporarily, but typically, they head back into the ocean,” she said. “I’m not sure how long the trek was for [this seal], but you know, they need prey. So no, I’m not sure that animal will stay there that long.”
Boccuzzi said the seal would be able to return naturally to the ocean.
“When it’s ready to leave, it has an egress out of the pond,” he said. “It can get back to open water.”
Correspondent Breanne Kovatch contributed to this story.