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See a seal pup, leave it alone experts say

A seal pup attempts to nurse on a boat moored at James Island State Park in Rosario Strait. Seal-pup season is here and experts warn people to keep their distance.  - Jutin Burnett / The Record
A seal pup attempts to nurse on a boat moored at James Island State Park in Rosario Strait. Seal-pup season is here and experts warn people to keep their distance.
— image credit: Jutin Burnett / The Record

They’re cute, they’re fuzzy and their and 100 percent off limits.

Seal-pup season began last month and will run through September and experts are once again warning the public to keep their distance.

Every year, people see pups that seem to be abandoned and make the mistake of “helping,” said Matt Klope, a biologist and member of the Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

“People are very caring, almost to a fault,” Klope said.

“The best thing to do to help the pup is stay away from it, far away so mom will come back and feed it,” he said.

According to Klope, it’s not uncommon for mothers to leave their babies behind for two days or more to feed. These are important times for both the mother and pup; mom gets vital nourishment and the pup gets needed rest.

But, the mother won’t return if the pup is surrounded by well-meaning Good Samaritans, or worse, she has nothing to return to because the animal has been “rescued.”

Klope said interfering with a seal pup in any way is a serious offense and a violation of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Even experts are limited by federal law. Unless the pup is injured, there is very little they can do, Klope said. Even then, interfering isn’t always the best thing.

More than half of pups don’t survive their first year. Letting nature takes it’s course can be difficult but necessary. The death of a pup, for example, may insure the survival of another animal, such as scavenging bald eagle.

“Even a dead pup serves a purpose,” Klope said.

The public is still encouraged to call with questions or concerns about an animal. The Central Puget Sound Marine Mammal Stranding Network can be reached at (866) 672-2638.

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