It’s that time of year again: Seal pups are appearing on beaches along the Oregon coast. Though they may appear to be abandoned, most of the time they are just resting and waiting for mom. Beachgoers are asked to stifle their desire to assist these animals in some way, and instead give them space.
Every spring, harbor seals give birth on secluded beaches or reefs along the Pacific coast. According to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the pups are born ready to swim, but cannot tread water for long; they need ample time on shore to rest and stay warm.
Concerned observers often report “abandoned” seal pups on the beach, not realizing that the mother might be foraging nearby, or swimming just offshore to maintain distance from curious humans and their dogs. Those who approach or otherwise try to “help” unattended pups may inadvertently cause harm, as the presence of people may deter mother seals from coming ashore to nurse.
Stern warnings aside, finding a harbor seal pup on the beach can be an enchanting and poignant experience. To keep these creatures safe, watch with binoculars or take pictures from afar—let the seals take care of themselves.
“Concerned observers can call the Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network [541-270-6830] if a pup is spotted,” says Jim Burke, Director of Animal Husbandry at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. “Their staff can post signs near the seal to inform other beachgoers of the situation.”