Avoid seal pups on Coastside beaches

Barry Parr
Marine Mammal Center recovering a baby sea elephant on March 27
Barry Parr
posted by Barry Parr
Sat, April 5, 2014
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Harbor seal pups are now being born on Bay Area beaches, and the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary advises beachgoers against interacting with any seal pups on the beach. Newborn harbor seal pups, born in late winter and spring, could suffer permanent harm if they are moved. Because seals are federally protected animals, you could also incur legal penalties.

Each year, healthy harbor seal pups are separated from their mothers by people who mistake them for orphans. Harbor seal mothers normally leave their pups unattended on beaches while feeding at sea. They will later rejoin and nurse them. The presence of humans or dogs near a seal pup could prevent a mother seal from reuniting with her young one. “The rule of thumb is, if a seal reacts to your presence – you’re too close,” said Jan Roletto, sanctuary marine biologist. “Avoid eye contact and back away slowly until they no longer notice you.”

You can report suspected orphaned or injured pups to a park ranger, or to the Marine Mammal Center at 415-289-7325 24 hrs a day

About a fifth of the state’s harbor seals live in the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary. The largest breeding grounds are in the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. In San Mateo County, the rookeries are mainly at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and Bean Hollow. Harbor seals haul out in groups ranging from a few to several hundred. Females generally give birth on sandy beaches or rocky reefs to a single pup, which nurses for three to four weeks.

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