Response to seal pup

There has been some controversy over the New England Aquarium’s response to a seal pup in Marshfield this weekend. Rescue team staff and volunteers responded quickly to those calls, carefully observed the seal and made a unanimous decision. They determined this pup did not warrant intervention.

The responding Aquarium Rescue Team staff and volunteers—with more than 15 years of experience responding to seals—determined the harbor seal pup did not have any shark bites. There were some small abrasions and some raised pustules, which are normal and found on almost all pups this time of year. Aquarium volunteers remained on site monitoring the pup until it returned to the water on its own.

Seal pups are born in May. They nurse for about 30 days and then are weaned in late June. They don’t spend any more time with their mothers. This time of year, pups are learning to feed and forage up and down the East Coast—and we frequently get calls about them. While it is not usual for recently weaned pups to approach people, it is in the pup’s long term best interest to leave it alone and let it learn to forage. It is against federal law to touch or harass marine mammals.

The New England Aquarium has been rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing marine animals for more than 40 years. Every day we interact with people with highly emotional responses to seals on the beach. They want to intervene, even when they’re healthy and vigorous. It’s important to know that seals belong out of the water.

Thank you for your concern for our local marine animals.

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