Cute as they may be, seal pups resting along the shore should be left in peace and photographed only from a distance. MARINE MAMMALS OF MAINE PHOTO

Forego that seal pup selfie



ELLSWORTH — Seal pupping season is under way in New England and if you are headed to the beach this weekend, you might see a seal pup resting on shore.

As tempting as it might be to get that perfect shot of you or your child with an adorable seal pup, the National Marine Fisheries Service reminds everyone to “do the right thing” and leave that 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.

NOAA Fisheries has received reports of a number of injuries to humans who got too close to an animal for a quick photo op. Getting too close to a wild animal risks stressing or threatening it, and stressed animals are much more likely to act unpredictably.

It is normal for a mother seal to leave her young pup alone on the beach for up to 24 hours while she feeds. The mother may not be visible offshore, but if she sees someone near her pup, she may not think it’s safe to come back. It might only take a few seconds to snap a photo, but the mother may abandon her pup if she feels threatened. For the seal pup, the consequences can be devastating.

If you see a seal pup, keep your distance. As a rule of thumb, stay at least 50 yards 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,” Mendy Garron, marine mammal stranding program coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region, said in a statement.

Approaching a seal pup or an adult can be considered illegal harassment. Under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, harassment is defined as “any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance” that has the potential to injure or disturb a marine animal. This can be dangerous for the animal, but can be dangerous for the harrasser too.

If you think an animal may be in trouble, there are things you can do.

To report a stranding, call the local Marine Mammal Stranding Network Member or the NOAA Fisheries Northeast Regional 24-hour hotline at (866) 755-6622.

If you see someone harassing a marine mammal, contact the Marine Patrol (667-3373 in Hancock County) or the NOAA Office of Law Enforcement at (800) 853-1964.