Do not disturb seals & sea lions
Marine Mammal Stranding Network
Responsible wildlife viewing
To report a dead, injured or stranded marine mammal, please call: 1-866-767-6114
For law enforcement, harassments, and other violations, please call: 1-800-853-1964
Responsible wildlife viewing
- Approach no closer than a distance of 100 yards.
This will minimize the potential for disturbing a resting animal and/or reduce stress for an animal that may be recovering from illness or injury.
- Dogs should be leashed and kept away from seals on the beach.
Baby seals can easily fall prey to dogs. Older seals may bite in self defense. Some diseases are infectious to dogs, seals, and humans.
- A minimum undisturbed observation period of 24-48 hours is recommended to determine whether a pup is being attended by a female.
Seal pups need time ashore. Mother seals will not return if people or dogs are nearby. The pup's best chance at survival is to be left alone on the beach. Please stay at least 100 yards away from seal pups. Signs of an attendant female would include sightings of seal(s) in the water nearby, tracks near the pup, and movement of the pup up or down the beach or in and out of the water.
- Do not handle, cover, pour water on, or attempt to feed seal pups. Feeding seals in the wild is a form of harassment and is harmful. Seals that are fed by humans quickly learn to seek humans for feeding opportunities. Unfortunately, the next dead fish they find may have a hook in it.
Harbor seals utilize specific shoreline locations on a regular basis as resting places (haul-outs). Haul-outs include beaches, rocks, log booms, floats, buoys, or any other shoreline or floating feature with easy access to the water. Harbor seals rest out of the water for several hours every day to regulate body temperature, interact with other seals and sleep. Harbor seals are vulnerable on land and are therefore wary of being approached while out of the water. Some seals, however, may tolerate activity close by. The most frequently reported encounters with seals out of the water involve pups that are too young to have developed protective wariness (escape response).
- Pups and Pupping
Pups are born in the spring and summer and the timing of the peak birth period varies geographically: coastal estuaries (Columbia River, Willapa Bay, Grays Harbor) from mid-April through June; Olympic Peninsula coast from May through July; San Juan Islands and eastern bays of Puget Sound from June through August; southern Puget Sound from July through September; and Hood Canal from August through January. The majority of pups are born at protected haul-out sites (rookeries), but a female may give birth anywhere with easy access to the waters edge. Nursing pups remain with their mothers for 4 to 6 weeks and then are weaned to forage and survive on their own. Up to 50% of the pups born will not survive the first year of life. Contributing factors to pup mortality are conditions associated with fetal development or premature birth, predation by shoreline predators or domestic dogs, infection, dehydration, or starvation.
- Human Interference
Harbor seals are less mobile and therefore more vulnerable to disturbance or predation while out of the water. Adult seals are more wary and escape to the water more quickly than pups. Females will flee to the water if disturbed or approached and may leave their pups behind. Please stay at least 100 yards away. Although the percentage of successful female/pup reunions has not been documented, anecdotal reports indicate that pups have successfully reunited up to 48 hours after separation. A female seal is more likely to return to reclaim her pup once the disturbance near the pup goes away. If activity continues near the pup, the female may eventually give up trying to return. A nursing pup that is separated from its mother will not survive.