Seal Pup Birthing Season Alert: Pupping season now underway in South Puget Sound Harbor seal pups grace our lives by visiting inland Puget Sound shores in early summer and fall. However, along the coastlines of Washington and Oregon, they are born as early as April (view map of pupping season). The pups "haul out" to get much-needed rest and warmth by sleeping on beaches and shoreline rocks, often alone for long hours. These pups are extremely vulnerable at this time and need our protection to help them survive; only 50% of harbor seals survive their first year.
Pupping season is currently underway on Washington's outer coast as well as the inland waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound. Please stay back - 100 yards when at all possible - from resting seals. Disruption of haulouts where large numbers of seals gather to give birth and nurse - or a beach with a lone mom and her pup - can be a matter of life and death for newborn animals.
Please make sure your dogs are leashed at all times when you visit the beach. Not only are the seal pups at risk from dog attacks, but dogs are at risk, too. Seals carry communicable diseases which your dog can contract, even by just getting too close. In most cities, dogs are not allowed on the beach. Virtually every year, seal pups are severely injured or killed in Washington by off-leash dogs. In coastal areas where driving on the beach is allowed, please be alert! Pups have been run over and killed by careless drivers. Don't touch seal pups! It's the law. Never handle a seal pup. They are wild animals and can inflict a severe wound. They can also carry diseases that are transmittable to humans and touching a marine mammal is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA).
Never move or feed a seal pup. If a pup is still nursing and the mother cannot locate her offspring, he will starve. A pup's digestive system is designed only for mom's rich milk or foods in their natural ecosystem - not peanut butter or cans of tuna fish (true instances of misguided human interference).
Stay back. Harbor seal mothers are very shy and will not return ashore for young if they feel it is not safe, so always observe from a distance. NOAArecommends a minimum of 100 yards. Human disturbance can cause abandonment of newborn pups. Approaching too close - not only by land, but also by kayak or other watercraft - can have dire consequences. Read our boater guidelines here. Stay away from haul-outs, where seals gather in numbers to breed, give birth and nurse their young.
Weaned pups need protection and rest, too, since they are now on their own without mom's rich milk for survival. A pup that is scared back into the water, wasting precious calories, will be weak and more prone to low body weight, parasites and predators. Please give them space. It is against Federal and Washington State law to feed, touch or move seal pups (read more about common mistakes punishable by law on Seal Sitters' Blubberblog). Since harbor seal pups do come ashore to regulate their temperature and gain the strength required for their survival, a pup that is alone onshore is not necessarily abandoned or sick. Call your local stranding network to report marine mammals on shore.
Who to call? If you see a seal or other marine mammal on beaches in West Seattle (King County) from Brace Point through the Duwamish River, please call Seal Sitters Marine Mammal Stranding Network's Hotline: 206-905-SEAL (7325).
For all other beaches in Washington and Oregon, please call the NOAA NW Stranding Hotline: 1-866-767-6114.
It is against Federal law to feed, touch, harass or move a marine mammal. If you see a violation or if an animal is endangered, call NOAA Enforcement at 1-800-853-1964.
For a complete listing of numbers to call in Washington and Oregon, please click here.