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Marine life experts say to steer clear of seal pups on the beach

It’s seal-pup season again, and the Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network reminds that if you see one on the beach, give it plenty of space and leave it alone.

“Seal pups and other marine mammals carry diseases which may be transferred to humans or domestic animals, and there is always the risk of injury to you and the marine mammal if you try to approach, touch or move it,” said Howard Garrett of Orca Network. Headquartered in Greenbank, Orca Network oversees the mammal stranding group.

Also, seal pups are covered by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and violations by people, even those with good intentions, can result in fines or prosecution, Garrett said.

Harbor seal pups in Puget Sound are born from late June through early August. Only half may survive their first year, he said.

Causes of death can include premature birth, wild predators or domestic dogs, infection or disease and dehydration or starvation due to abandonment by the mother, often caused by human interference, Garrett said.

Harbor seals nurse their young for four to six weeks, then cut them loose to fend for themselves, he said. A pup often is found resting and warming on the beach while its mother forages in the sea for food.

Garrett recommends getting no closer then 100 yards from a beached seal pup. Keep your pets away from the pups, and let local authorities know of their locations so they can be monitored.

Also, if you’re boating or kayaking, give the seal pups plenty of room to roam, Garrett said.

Don’t feed them, and report strandings of more than 48 hours to the mammal stranding network at 1-866-ORCANET or 360-678-3451, or the National Marine Fisheries Service at 206-526-6733.

“The best reason to leave these cute little seal pups alone is that if you touch or move them, you are reducing the chance of them returning to their mothers and living a natural life in the wild,” Garrett said.

For more information about seal pups, visit www.orcanetwork.org/strandings or www.nwr.noaa.gov/mmammals/pinnipeds/harbor.

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