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Warnings about Seal Pups on Washington / Oregon Coast: Do Not Touch Them

Published 04/05/22 at 4:55 AM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Warnings about Seal Pups on Washington / Oregon Coast: Do Not Touch Them

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(Seaside, Oregon) – They're fuzzy, they're plump and they're cute enough to make you just wanna squeeze'm. (Photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium)

But that's a big no-no.

Newborn harbor seal season is now in full swing along the Oregon coast and Washington coast, and that means another warning to stay away from the adorable wee beasties. Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe said it's absolutely important to remember “Do NOT Touch the Seal Pups!” In fact, stay clear of them. By trying to help them you will likely actually be hurting them.

“It is important to remember that it is normal for a seal pup to be resting, relaxing and soaking up the sun alone,” Boothe said. “However, the mother may not return if humans or other animals are too close.”

While their big brown eyes might look irresistible, coming near them could scare mama away. If she sees humans around, she won't come back up the beach after gathering food and strength to nurse her little one.

Some people have actually picked them up and moved them, thinking they're helping. In one case, a group took a baby seal pup back to their hotel room and had it sitting in the bathtub. Seaside Aquarium staff had to remove it.

The Oregon coast and Washington coast see harbor seal pups well into the summer months from April until about September. Boothe said they periodically leave the young pups safely on beaches, rocky outcroppings or even docks. They're like any baby: they need a lot of sleep, and dry areas like these provide a good resting area.

There's also another important biological reason for this, Boothe said.

“Time spent on land is critical for the young seal to regulate body temperature and rest while the mother seal is close hunting,” Boothe said. “Harbor seals live on land for nearly half their lives breeding, molting (shedding their fur coat), resting and raising their offspring. As such, human and domestic dog interactions are obstacles for the health and well-being of both young and mature seals.”

A pup may stay in place for a few days, with the mother showing up at night to feed the baby.

Those seriously cute little creatures double in size within four to six weeks of being born, living on a regular diet of mother's milk that contains 40 percent milk fat. While that extra layer of chonk makes the seal pups especially adorable, the pups truly depend on it for survival as they slowly learn to forage for themselves.

“Any interference from humans that could cause early separation between newborn pup and mother could be detrimental to the pup’s ability to survive,” Boothe said.

Even the smell of a human having been in close contact with a baby seal can cause the mother to be spooked. Boothe told Oregon Coast Beach Connection the mama seals go by their olfactory system.

If you spot a seal pup (or any other stranded animal on the beach) it's critical you give it plenty of space and call the local marine mammal stranding network so they can come by and cordon off the area.

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 use 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. MORE PHOTOS BELOW:

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