troll art bordertroll art border
NERO logoNews
Northeast Region Protected Resources Division
Atlantic Marine Assessment Program for Protected Species
Maggie Mooney-Seus
978 281-9175
Apri 24, 2012
55 Great Republic Drive
Gloucester, MA 01930-2276

Spring Seal Pupping Season Kicks Off Two Months Earlier than Normal
Important to Keep a Safe Distance When Encountering Seals
PDF/Print version

Harbor Seals

Related Links
2012 Seal Tagging Expeditions
Harbor Seals

Share the Shoreline

As NOAA scientists conduct the annual spring harbor seal population survey, they are noting unusually high numbers of seal pups for this time of year.  Typically, harbor seals tend to give birth in May and June along the Northeastern U.S. coast, but this year, harbor seal pups were reported as early as March. NOAA is issuing this reminder to view wildlife responsibly, so that both seals and humans can safely share the shoreline.

 “While it is not clear why the pupping season began so early this year, since harbor seals tend to use rocky islands, ledges or sandy beaches to give birth or just rest, chances of encountering a seal is greater, so it is really important that you don’t approach, handle or feed them,” said Mendy Garron, marine mammal stranding coordinator for the Northeast Region of NOAA Fisheries Service. “Even though they look cute, these are wild animals and getting too close puts the animal, humans and pets at risk.” 

A disturbed seal can bite and even transmit diseases like distemper virus or rabies to humans and pets.  In other instances, a disturbed seal may abandon its pup to flee an approaching human or dog.  If this happens and the pup is nursing, it will not survive.  However, a female seal is more likely to return to reclaim her pup if the disturbance near the pup goes away.  Observing the animal from a distance is the best way to avoid disturbing it or being injured.

Under federal law it is illegal and punishable by law to pick up, handle or interact with free-swimming, dead or beached marine protected species. This includes seals, whales, dolphins, porpoise, sea turtles and manatees.  Penalties for harassing these animals can be up to $50,000 and a year in jail.  To report incidents of people or pets tormenting, disturbing or attempting to remove a seal from the beach, contact the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline (1-800-853-1964).

What to do when encountering a seal on a beach:

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Visit us at or on Facebook at

Error processing SSI file