Who: Seaside Aquarium
What: Seal Pup Season
When: April through September
Where: Oregon and Washington Coasts
Fuzzy, plump and cute enough to squeeze, newborn harbor seal season is in full swing. While their big brown eyes might look irresistible we all must remember: Do Not Touch Seal Pups! It is important to remember that it is normal for a seal pup to be resting, relaxing and soaking up the sun alone. However, the mother may not return if humans or other animals are too close so experts advise ‘don’t touch seal pups!’
Oregon and Washington welcome harbor seal pups well into the summer months and it is common for mother harbor seals to leave young pups safely on beaches, docks or rocky outcrops along familiar coastlines. Time spent on land is critical for the young seal to regulate body temperature and rest while the mother seal is close hunting. 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.
Baby seals often double in size from birth in 4-6 weeks on a regular diet of mother’s milk with 40% milk fat. While the extra layer of fat makes the pups adorable, the pups depend on that stored body fat to survive foraging on their own as they become more independent. Any interference from humans that could cause early separation between newborn pup and mother could be detrimental to the pup’s ability to survive.
If you spot a seal pup and feel the urge to assist it, remember to give it plenty of space and call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network (503.738.6211). Local wildlife officials will respond as quickly as possible to assess the situation and obtain information or observations about the animal in question. In most instances the animal is healthy and responders will post educational signs that encourage onlookers to keep a safe distance away while the situation is monitored by experts. Last year the Seaside Aquarium responded to and placed signs on 24 seal pups all of which successfully left the beach.
Here is a link to a very cute seal pup resting on the beach (1) Harbor seal pup rests on an Oregon beach, 2017 – YouTube
The Marine Mammal Stranding Network responds to sightings of pups and other injured or dead marine mammals. For our region in northern Oregon, Seaside Aquarium is the local responder for the Marine Mammal Stranding Network and can be contacted at 503.738.6211. If a stranded mammal is found elsewhere the Oregon State Police reporting line can be called 1.800.452.7888.