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S. Oregon Coast Baby Seal Incident More Complex, as Someone (Mostly) Did the Right Thing With Driftwood

Published 06/04/23 at 9:20 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

S. Oregon Coast Baby Seal Incident a Bit Complex, as Someone (Mostly) Did the Right Thing With Driftwood

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(Coos Bay, Oregon) – An incident on the south Oregon coast with a baby seal is providing a rather strong reminder why you should leave seal pups alone. However, it may not be as cut and dry this time, as it turns the unknown concerned citizen has actually done the right thing in this circumstance. (Photo Coos County Sheriff's Gabe Fabrizio)

Coos County Sheriff's Office in Coos Bay Sunday morning put out a warning about staying clear of seal pups after someone moved driftwood to surround a baby seal lying on the beach near the dunes.

The area is part of the dunes near Coos Bay where off-road vehicles are allowed. In these rare cases, the Marine Mammal Stranding Network actually advises setting driftwood logs just north and just south of the seal to keep it from getting run over.

“Today Deputy M.R. Smith found a seal pup on patrol where someone had placed driftwood around it, likely thinking that would help protect it,” the Sheriff's office said on social media. “Please refrain from doing this, as the mother may be confused when she returns to pick up the pup.”

Keith Chandler of Seaside Aquarium helps run the north Oregon coast portion of the network – everything south of Rockaway Beach is territory of Jim Rice, head of the network. Chandler said the Coos County Sheriff's message isn't quite correct: they tell folks finding baby seals in areas like this to put driftwood logs ten feet south and ten feet north of the seal. Only in these circumstances, however.

Photo courtesy Oregon's Adventure Coast: dune buggies near Coos Bay

“What's worse: getting close to a seal for a minute or the baby seal getting run over by a monster truck?” Chandler told Oregon Coast Beach Connection.

Rice gave the official word late Sunday night on this subject.

“I would agree with Keith that it is our general recommendation to place driftwood on either side of a seal to prevent them from being hit by vehicles on beaches, while allowing the animal clear access to the water,” he told Oregon Coast Beach Connection.

Surrounding a baby seal with driftwood is definitely not acceptable on regular beaches with no vehicle traffic. Dropping the driftwood at a little more distance from the seal is ideal.

The Sheriff's office – along with all tourism and science experts on the Oregon coast – say if you find a baby seal resting, stay far back and let it continue to do so. The mother will come back for the little one.

“Several seal pups are reported each year as 'abandoned,' however, the mother has just gone hunting for food to feed the pup and will return to retrieve her little one once enough food has been obtained,” the office said.

This particular incident seems a bit more complex, although the Coos County Sheriffs do have the right idea about staying away from the little ones.

If you find a baby seal or any other stranded sea creature (like turtles, whales or sharks), call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Don't assume you know what to do, however, when it comes to driftwood. Call the network first to report it.

On the north Oregon coast and southern Washington coast, call the Seaside Aquarium at 503-738-6211. The Marine Mammal Hotline at 1.800.452.7888 is best for the southern Oregon coast, or all of the state if you cannot remember the other numbers. On the northern Washington coast, the greater West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network line at 1.866.767.6114 is your best bet.

For State Police on the northern half of Oregon: 800-442-0776. For the southern half (below Reedsport): 800-442-2068.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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