Resist the urge to ‘rescue’ seal pups

May 09, 2009 07:00 am

There’s a reason why people try to “rescue” baby seals found on local beaches: They’re adorable.

The problem is, these seemingly helpless animals don’t need to be rescued.

Leaving them alone is the best thing to do, according to Jim Rice, coordinator of the statewide Oregon Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

It’s that time of year when seals give birth to their pups on Curry County beaches. At times, Rice said, the mother seal will give birth to a pup that is not fully developed and must leave it ashore for periods of time while the pup completes its development and the mother hunts for food.

The mother will return to nurse the pup, usually at night, when there are no people around. Pups will often spend as long as a week on the beach before they have developed enough to got follow their mother into the sea.

Because baby seals are so cute, and appear helpless, people may feel compelled to help them. But if they do, Rice said, there is a good chance the young animal, cut off from it’s mother’s care, will die.

It’s not uncommon for seal pups to end up someone’s bathtub as well-meaning rescuers try to find someone or somewhere to take the animal. The reality is, there are no facilities in the area, save for the Northcoast Marine Mammal Center in Crescent City, that can take the animal.

Furthermore, it’s against state law to harass seal pups, and that includes removing them from the beach for their “protection.”

If visitors to Curry County beaches find a stranded seal pup, the best thing to do is leave it alone – and make sure other people and dogs don’t harass the animal.

If people have a hard time just leaving the animal and want to help, Rice encourages them to call the Oregon State Police toll-free at (800) 452-7888 and report the location and condition of the animal.