Last summer, despite the best efforts of volunteers with the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN), a seal pup had to be rescued from the beach at Lighthouse Marine Park after too much attention from humans spooked the mother away. WMMSN principal investigator Victoria Souze hopes stepped up efforts to educate the public will prevent it from happening again.
“Keep your distance,” she said. “If you get too close, mother seals abandon their pups. You are too close if an animal starts to stare, fidget or flee.”
Seals and sea lions come ashore to rest, regulate their body temperature and nurse their young. Mothers often leave pups behind to rest and stay warm while they return offshore to feed. They are very wary and easily spooked away from returning to care for their pup. A seal pup alone on the beach has likely not been abandoned, but could become so if people and pets remain in the area.
The infants have not developed wariness like the adults, so will not go back in the water if people or animals approach. This makes them vulnerable to attack. Keep pets away and on a leash. Pets can disturb or harm wildlife or separate mothers from their pups.
Federal regulations prohibit harassing or interfering with marine mammals such as harbor seals, and requires people stay a minimum of 100 feet away from the animals.
WMMSN will be giving a certified responder training on June 3 in Point Roberts at the community center at 10 a.m. Cost is $25. The class lasts about three hours. Please contact Souze if you are interested at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you see an injured, stranded or dead marine mammal, please call the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network’s hotline at 360/966-8845. Visit wmmsn.org to find out more about the stranding network.