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Don Lewis, Massachusetts Audubon Society,
Fox Island Wildlife Management Area

Close Encounter — 26 February 2001

On a New England crisp night when stars pop from the skyscape like alien spacecraft, one might be forgiven for an open-mouth doubletake on an unexpectedly close encounter of a very different kind.  A big gray ET?  Well, the color’s right.  And the eyes look fairly Roswellian.

Bouncing over the tinkertoy bridge, the jeep’s headlights captured a strange shape guarding the causeway approach to Lieutenant Island.  Colors blending perfectly against mottled gray asphalt dotted with splattered shellfish dropped by Wellfleet’s too smart sea gulls, a harp seal spanned the roadway.  Had she not raised her head as the car approached, it would have been a close call whether or not she could have been spotted in time.

Obviously well nourished, she probably slipped onto the asphalt causeway to soak up the remnants of a sunny day’s heat buildup, because radiational cooling under a dry, cloudless sky had begun to drive temperatures below freezing.  And she wasn’t about to surrender her heating blanket without a protest.

But with tire tracks bisecting her body, prudence called for her to skedaddle.  So, despite her barking protests, I escorted this fair maiden into the abutting salt marsh, looking over my shoulder every few minutes to be sure no strange blinking lights appeared overhead.