NOAA: Don’t Take Selfies With Beached Seals
We really shouldn't have to even mention this, but don't try to take a selfie with a seal you may encounter on the beach this winter. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) advises that seal pup season is underway and it is at this time of the year that you may come across a seal pup relaxing on the sand.
According to a recent NOAA advisory, seal pups are adorable, but the best thing you can do for them is to keep your distance! Stay at least 150 feet (about four school bus lengths) away from seals, and keep pets away, too.
Despite good intentions, some beach goers take actions that put themselves and the seals at risk of injury. More often than not, interactions with seals leave the seals and their pups in dangerous situations--pups can be abandoned by their mothers, forced into the water when they aren’t old enough, or fed foods that make them ill. (Even if it were legal to feed seals, which it is not, they don’t eat peanut butter and jelly, just FYI.) The people approaching are also at risk of being bitten by a terrified seal that just wants to be left alone.
If you see a seal that you think might be in trouble, please call the Greater Atlantic Region Marine Animal Hotline at 866-755-6622, so trained responders can assist.
The popularity of selfies and capturing any moment through photographs or video is posing a new threat to wildlife and humans, including seals. Getting too close to seals can scare the animals and change their behaviors.
Pups don’t swim very well-- which is the reason they are hanging back on the beach while mom hunts. It is normal for a mother seal to leave her young pup alone on the beach for up to 24 hours while she feeds. You may not see the mother, but if she sees you near her pup, she may not think it’s safe to come back. It might only take a few seconds for you to snap the photo, but the mother may abandon her pup if she feels threatened. For the seal pup, the consequences can be devastating. Also, attempting to put or chase a seal pup into the water can cost the pup it’s life.
Even if the mother is present, if a curious seal pup approaches on its own, the right move is to back away so the mother doesn’t perceive your interaction as a threat and abandon the area, leaving her pup behind.