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Now Is Seal Pup Season on Oregon / Washington Coast: Leave Them Alone

Published 03/26/21 at 6:55 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Now Is Seal Pup Season on Oregon / Washington Coast: Leave Them Alone

(Seaside, Oregon) – Spring is in the air and the adorable baby seals will be soon be on the beaches of the Oregon and Washington coastline. (All photos courtesy Tiffany Boothe / Seaside Aquarium)

Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium wants to get the word out now, even though the aquarium has not yet had a call about a baby seal on the beaches. Seaside Aquarium is part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and responds to these situations.

“Give them plenty of space and do not touch,” she said.

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Call authorities, she said, so responders in the area can attend to the seal and give it any assistance it may need. Those contact numbers are at the bottom of the article.

“Oregon and Washington typically see harbor seals born throughout spring and into late summer, while California may see pups early as February,” Boothe said. “These young animals use time on land to regulate body temperature and rest while their mothers hunt nearby. However, the mother may not return if humans are too close. Thus, wildlife experts suggest giving seal pups plenty of space, observe them from a distance and while they are absolutely adorable do not touch.”

Harbor seal mothers partially recognize their babies by smell. If a human approaches, not only can it scare off the momma but the smell left by a human on her baby may spook her as well.

Boothe said baby seals double in size from birth to about six weeks old as they feed on mother’s milk, which contains 40 percent fat. That puffy, extra layer of fat makes the pups adorable, but they depend on that stored fat to survive the process of learning to forage on their own.

“Female seals birth annually after an eleven-month gestation and utilize familiar coastal shores or estuary areas with easy access to water to have their pups,” she said. “New seals can immediately swim but stay close and ride on their mothers back while they mature.”

Any interaction between humans and the baby seal could jeopardize their ability to survive. Which is why responders like the Seaside Aquarium, Oregon Coast Aquarium or those on the south coast come in quickly and cordon off the area to keep visitors away from the baby.

Various other groups respond on the Washington coast.

Boothe said these and other marine mammals are all protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This federal law means it is illegal to touch, move, harass, feed or kill any marine mammals, including seal pups. Harbor seals live on land for nearly half their lives breeding, molting, resting, and raising their offspring. Molting occurs after pups are weaned, and to retain warmth and energy molting seals often stay on land for extended periods of time. Human encroachment and domestic dog interaction are big challenges for the health and well-being of both young and mature seals.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Network responds to sightings of seal pups and other injured or dead marine mammals (including whales or dolphins). Responders will act as quickly as possible to assess the situation and obtain information and observations about the animal in question.

There are some 32 sites along the Oregon coast where Harbor seals live in colonies, mostly tucked away out of sight from humans. Populations may be larger on the south Oregon coast, where places like Coos Bay’s Simpson Reef provide room for a good thousand seals and sea lions. There may be more seal pups going ashore in the southern region, but so much of it is very remote they are largely unseen and unnoticed.

What numbers do you call if you find a stranded seal pup? Oregon State Police non-emergency numbers are good but make sure you do not utilize 911. 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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