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Sure They're Adorbs, but Seal Pup Season Comes with Warnings on Washington / Oregon Coast

Published 04/17/23 at 5:52 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Sure They're Adorbs, but Seal Pup Season Comes with Warnings on Washington / Oregon Coast

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(Seaside, Oregon) – All along the Oregon coast and Washington coast, the season for seal pups is starting. (All photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe)

According to Seaside Aquarium, they've just seen their first harbor seal pup in their part of the north Oregon coast, as part of the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. In that capacity, they oversee the areas from Rockaway Beach into the southern Washington coast and the Long Beach Peninsula.

Harbor seals are typically born in spring and summer, although California may see them earlier. Being young creatures, they need some time on land to rest and regulate body temps. This means you'll see them lounging or napping on the sands along the Washington coast and Oregon coast, and that means you absolutely must leave them alone.

Contact officials in these cases (contacts are at end of the article).

They're doing this while their mothers are at hunting sea.

“However, the mother may not return if humans are too close,” said the Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe. “Thus, wildlife experts suggest giving seal pups plenty of space, observe them from a distance and while they are absolutely adorable do not touch.”

If mama seal sees a human nearby, that can spook them and then the little one may actually be in trouble. The mistake often made by people is that they think the baby seal is in a bad situation. It's just nature.

The irony here is actually tragic: if you try to “help” the seal pup and scare its mama away, then it will die.

Some incredibly dumb stuff has happened by visitors trying to “help” a baby seal on the beach. In one instance, the Seaside Aquarium had to rescue a baby seal that a group of tourists had in their condo bathtub.

That being said, a harbor seal has a rather interesting beginning to life.

“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,” Boothe said. “New seals can immediately swim but stay close and ride on their mother’s back while they mature.”

Baby harbor seals generally double in size in their first four to six weeks, living on a regular diet of mother's milk – which is some 40 percent miklfat, Boothe said. That extra layer of tubbiness makes them certifiably adorbs, but they depend on stored body fat to survive as they forage on their own, slowly learning how to become independent out in the wild.

Besides just this bit of common sense while on the Oregon coast or Washington coast, harbor seals are under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Under such federal law, it is illegal to move them. It is also illegal to harass, touch, feed or kill any marine mammal – which includes seal pups.

Harbor seals live on land for nearly half their lives breeding, molting, resting, and raising their offspring. While you don't normally see them on Washington coast or Oregon coast beaches, they have many “haul out” areas along rocky outcroppings or coves that are hidden from humans.

Boothe said 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.

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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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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