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Look But Don't Touch
Published: 04/05/2017
 
Photo by Tiffany Boothe, Seaside Aquarium

Springtime is Harbor Seal pupping season on the Oregon Coast.

At this time of year, Harbor Seal pups are frequently found alone on Oregon's coastal beaches. The breeding season begins in mid-April and Seaside Aquarium wants you to know that Harbor Seal pups on the beach are not stranded, but simply resting as all baby mammals must do and wait for their mothers return to nurse.

Well-intentioned people sometimes think that a seal pup alone on the beach has been abandoned by its mother, but this is rarely the case. Harbor Seal mothers routinely leave pups ashore unattended while they forage at sea. Though you may not be able to see her, she is always nearby.

While the pups are friendly and will approach humans, the adult female seals are shy and unlikely to rejoin a pup if there is activity nearby. Sometimes they only return at night to nurse when people and dogs are not around. If the pup is moved, it has no chance of reuniting with its mother and it will die. If you see a seal pup on the beach, it is very important not to interfere; their best chance for survival is to give it plenty of space and never touch.

Weighing about 25 pounds at birth, Harbor Seal pups grow quickly, doubling their weight within the first month. At about four weeks the pups are weaned from maternal care and the young seals begin hunting in small tidepools, bays or estuaries and frequently come ashore to rest. This is often a very challenging stage of life and not all survive. While it may be tempting to take them in, their best chance for survival is to be left alone on the beach.

Harbor Seal pups are cute, and issues arise when humans try to interact, says Keith Chandler with the Seaside Aquarium. If you should happen to see a Harbor Seal pup while strolling the beach, remember to stay back, look from a distance and leave it alone, it's not only best for the pups, it's the law.

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