With summer comes the annual seal breeding season and a cautionary message. From June to September, seal pups are often left alone at the shoreline, which may seem worrisome and urgent. However, experts say the best action is to stay away and call the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN), which can assist stranded, distressed and deceased marine animals.
Victoria Souze, the WMMSN principal investigator, said federal law requires people to stay 100 yards away from seals. This is about 19 Toyota Camrys or roughly the length of a football field.
Souze explained it is typical for pups to be left alone on the shoreline.
“Seal pups cannot keep up with their mother when she’s out foraging for fish,” Souze said. “Plus, the pup doesn’t have the blubber layer yet to swim without getting cold and hypothermic.”
The mom will leave the seal pup on the shoreline, typically early in the morning when nobody is around, Souze said. The seal pup is sometimes left as long as six hours, and by the time she comes back, the beach might be more active. If the mother sees people or dogs surrounding her seal pup, she will eventually give up and abandon her pup.
“People’s first reaction when a baby animal is crying is they want to help. But, actually, the best thing they can do is stay as far away as possible and keep their dogs away,” Souze said. “Call us if there’s any concern. We respond to every single call.”
Once the WMMSN responds to a call, they assess whether precautions are needed. Precautions may be to close an area of the beach where the seal pup is or the worst-case scenario, taking an orphan into their triage care facility, Souze said.
“Make sure that if you’re on a beach, tell other people to stay away. If it’s a really busy beach, sometimes that’s just not possible. Call us. We will intervene,” Souze said.
To report a marine mammal stranded, distressed or deceased, call the Whatcom Humane Society Wildlife Center hotline at 360/966-8845. For more information about Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network visit bit.ly/3yvn2Fg.
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