OLYMPIA, Wash. – The harbor seal pupping season began earlier this month, an increase in calls to 911 over the weekend prompted Ocean Shores officer Paul Henderson to remind beachgoers that this is the time of year we will see more pups on our beaches, appearing to be stranded as their mothers will often leave their pups on the beach for several hours at a time while they’re foraging for food. It’s normal for seal pups to be alone on the beach. This does not mean they’re abandoned.
Henderson said meddling with the pups can have the opposite effect, if the mother smells people on her pup she might abandon it.
Nursing pups remain with their mothers for four to six weeks, and then are weaned to forage and survive on their own.
Human disturbance near the pup may cause stress and delay the mother’s return because of natural wariness. The best thing you can do is leave the pup alone and keep your distance so its mom will return.
Seals and sea lions use shoreline habitat on a regular basis to rest and regulate their body temperature. NOAA Fisheries Service advises the public to stay at least 100 yards away from all marine mammal species to avoid disturbing or harassing them, and to protect people and pets from diseases.
All marine mammals are protected by law. You can be fined if you harass any marine mammal. If you see anyone handling or harassing a marine mammal, call the Office for Law Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964. If you believe a marine mammal is stranded or injured, or a seal pup has been alone for 24-48 hours, please call your local stranding network or NOAA’s stranding hotline at 206-526-6733.