Harbor seals produce a new generation of pups between spring and fall. Born almost helpless, these suckling pups follow their mothers around – but this makes it difficult for the nursing parent to catch a fast-swimming meal. So, what to do? Stick the little guy on a beach while the groceries are a’gettin’, and usually the seal pup does just fine, resting and taking a warm nap. But all manner of problems can happen. Dogs, kids, picnics, beachcombers, joggers, kayak and dingy landings. “Oh my god, this little adorable seal is abandoned” and the little seal is either harassed or picked up and taken for ‘help’. It’s almost a certain death-sentence, and only about 50% of the seals survive their first season. If pups are not weaned and their mother cannot find them, they will starve. Off-leash dogs are a very real danger to seal pups, and mother seals are very wary. If you and/or your pet are too close they will very likely just abandon their offspring.
The Marine Mammal Stranding Network: A group of volunteers, institutions and government aid harbor seal pups and other stranded or harassed marine animals. Keep the following map aboard your boat to call for help if you see marine wildlife in danger. When on beaches, follow these simple rules: keep dogs leashed and 100 yards away from any marine wildlife. Harbor seals can carry communicable diseases that your pet can contract just by sniffing them – and so can humans by touching them. Never move a seal pup. Use common sense to protect these wild creatures that share our waters. Need more reason? It’s a against federal law to feed, touch or move seal pups. For more information and maps, go to SealSitters.org.
Larry Eifert paints and writes about wild places. His work is in many national parks across America – and at larryeifert.com. Information courtesy of Seal Sitters.