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Spring Break is here. Are you ready?

Oregon Coast Officials Warn Stay Away from Seals

Seal near Seaside this week (courtesy Seaside Aquarium)

(Oregon Coast) – With spring coming on, officials on the coast have a reminder for visitors when it comes to certain natural occurrences.

They’re practically screaming, “DON’T TOUCH THE SEAL PUPS!!!”

Tiffany Boothe, of the Seaside Aquarium, said the recent lounging of a seal pup around the estuary of Seaside has brought the subject up again. Sometimes, when these adorable creatures wander onto the beach, the public is temped to grab them or otherwise mistake them for being in danger or in need of saving. But that is not the case, and you should leave them alone.

If you see a seal on the beach, do not assume it’s been abandoned by its mother, said Boothe. In fact, if anything the opposite is true.

“Well-meaning people who remove seal pups from beaches are eliminating the possibility of the pup being reunited with their mother,” Boothe said. “They’re also violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and they may face criminal and or civil penalties. The best thing for you to do is to keep well away from this seal pup, thereby reducing stress on the pup and or alarming its mother.”

Fur seal on the coast, summer 2005

Boothe said that when she and Chandler receive a call about a resting seal pup, they immediately head to that beach spot and set up informational signs for the public. “We then record where the pup is and in what kind of condition it appears to be in,” said Boothe. “We will monitor the seal for the next few days until it leaves the beach.”

Boothe said the signs posted read:

Seal pups are often found resting on shore while their mothers are hunting for food nearby. This is a normal occurrence. The condition and location of this pup has been reported to the Marine Mammal Stranding Network.”

The Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) makes it illegal to harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any marine mammal. Violations of the MMPA can result in civil penalties of up to $10,000, or criminal penalties of up to $20,000 or up to 1 year in federal prison.

Boothe said touching these creatures presents possible health problems. Any kind of marine mammal found dead or alive poses a potential health risk, and untrained people coming into contact with them risk exposing themselves, domestic animals and marine mammals to various types of diseases.

Earlier this year, the Boothe and the Aquarium’s Keith Chandler were alerted to various dead marine mammals that had washed up on shore, including a sea lion whose head had been removed. Such actions, say Boothe and Chandler, seriously pose a risk to those who had perpetrated such illegal acts.

Chandler said others in the past have done a variety of really stupid things when it comes to stranded seal pups. One group a few years ago picked the pup up and kept it in the bathtub of their hotel room, then called the aquarium.

Chandler said other people have grabbed the creatures and kept them in their car for a while as well.

“We can’t take these or rehabilitate them,” Booth said. “So we always tell them to take them back to where they found them. Otherwise, their mother can’t find them.”

Disease is one of many reasons the aquarium cannot accept or help seals on the beach: they can’t risk infecting their current pool full of seals.

To report other incidents of marine mammal strandings on Oregon beaches, call 1-800-452-7888.


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