|A gray seal rests on a beach. They may look awkward on land, but it is a completely natural behavior.|
Educate on-lookers. Explain that it is normal for seals to be on land to the people around you! Now that you know the information, the best way to spread the word is to educate. No matter how many signs or flyers we hand out, word of mouth is always the best. You can also help keep a safe distance from the seal which is the best supportive care you can provide for the animal.
Alert the experts. If you see a live or dead seal on the beach, call the NEAQ hotline at 617-973-5247. We are always available by phone, and depending on the situation, we will either respond to an animal ourselves or send one of our highly trained and experienced field volunteers to the scene. Field volunteers act as our first responders by assessing from a distance, gathering documentation through photos to report back to staff, and educating the public. They are trained in what to look for such as proper behavior, significance of wounds, and general safety for the animal.
Leave it alone. Seals are not comforted by human presence, and even though they may not retreat from you, it does not mean it is not extremely stressed by the encounter. Displays such as shivering, vocalizing, and waving flippers are all signs of stress. Seals are also federally protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes it illegal to harass any marine mammal. Harassment can be defined as anything that will alter the natural behavior, so if a seal is sleeping on the beach, and you approach so that it looks at you, you have altered it's sleeping behavior and technically harassing the animal. The best guideline is to stay 150 feet away according to these federal regulations.
|This harp seal is not waving 'hi', someone must be approaching or making noise. This behavior is a sign of stress and it is our cue to back away. Physiological stress can cause a severe decline in health very quickly.|
We hope this information is useful when you are out on the beach. Some of the typical comments we get such as "it's a baby and all alone", "it can't get back in the water", or "it was attacked by a shark" and much more will be addressed in blogs to come so remember to follow this series. In the meantime, remember our hotline # is 617-973-5247 and if you care, leave it there!