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Share the Shore with Seals

It's harbor seal pupping season off the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. During pupping season, it's quite common to see a seal pup resting on the beach alone.

Credit: Marine Mammals of Maine

There is no selfie stick long enough! Keep your distance.

As tempting as it might be to get that perfect shot of yourself or your child with an adorable seal pup, please do the right thing and leave the seal pup alone. Getting too close to a wild animal puts you—and the animal—at risk. Seals have powerful jaws, and can leave a lasting impression. We have received reports of a number of injuries to humans as a result of getting too close to an animal during a quick photo op. When you get too close to a wild animal, you increase stress on the animal and it may think you’re a threat. Stressed animals are much more likely to act unpredictably.

Normal Behavior

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 offshore, 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.

Give Them Space

If you see a seal pup, keep your distance. As a rule of thumb, stay at least 50 yards (150 feet) from seals. A curious seal pup might approach on its own, but the mother is likely to be nearby, and may see your interaction as a threat.

“The best thing you can do if you want to help is keep away from the animal and keep your pets away from it, so the mother has a chance to return,” says Mendy Garron, marine mammal stranding program coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region.

Are you too close?

If the seal turns to look in your direction, waves its flippers, looks like its yawning, or goes to move away,  back up and give the animal more space.

Credit: Marine Mammals of Maine

The Rules

If your behavior changes the seal’s behavior, that is considered harassment, which is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

How to Help

Keeping a safe distance is the best way you can help seals and other wildlife. However, if you think a seal is in trouble, there are things you can do:

Find out more about the Greater Atlantic Region’s Stranding Program (covering the coastlines of Maine to Virginia).

Watch our new Public Service Announcement on sharing our shores with seals and sea lions.