Watch out for seal pups this summer, experts warn


With warmer weather and summer arriving, people gravitate toward their local beaches. 

Seal pups can be vulnerable to human neighbors disrupting them as their mothers leave to hunt.

Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network (WMMSN) has a team of roughly 84 volunteers who aim to educate the public about seal pups and rescue vulnerable seal pups, said senior investigator Victoria Souze.

Souze has been with WMMSN since the nonprofit was founded in 2007, making it the first local resource dedicated to marine mammal rescues at the time. WMMSN has a standing agreement with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for all marine strandings.

NOAA estimates that seal pups have a one-year mortality rate of 50 percent, according to its website.

Souze estimates that WMMSN-trained volunteers rescue 12 seal pups every year due to humans disrupting pups in their natural habitat. Semiahmoo Marina and Drayton Harbor are both known problem spots for seal pups, Souze added.

Volunteers called “seal sitters” encourage people to stay 100 yards from seal pups. To participate in rescue, volunteers are trained annually to safely interact with them.

Souze said Fourth of July weekend fireworks on beaches are disruptive and place seal pups at greater risk.

Upon receiving a call, WMMSN volunteers typically wait a day or so before intervening to allow the mother an opportunity to return to her seal pup. WMMSN reports rescue calls to NOAA.

“Every response that we do goes into the database,” Souze said.

Depending on the seal pup’s condition, they can be transferred to Whatcom Humane Society for triage, Souze said. More serious cases are transferred to SeaLife Response, Rehab, and Research (SR3) in Des Moines, Washington for rehabilitation and eventual release into the wild.

Souze said awareness and prevention are important to keeping seal pups safe. One of WMMSN’s goals is preventing strandings by educating the public about seal pups, Souze said, adding they often table at events throughout Whatcom County.  

“Do not approach,” Souze said. “Please call our hotline and we will respond.”

To report stranded seal pups or other marine animals call 360/966-8845 during normal business and leave a voicemail if after hours. Members of the public can also visit the WMMSN website at or email Souze at for more information.


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