Thursday, August 1, 2013

"Seal Pups Need Tough Love to Survive" by Gayleen Hays

Our Marine Mammal Stranding Network recently received a call on our message-line from a woman reporting that a seal pup was on a busy beach in front of her house. She was worried that the seal pup had been abandoned by its mother and wanted to know what she could do to help. I could tell by her voice that she was very distraught and fighting tears. Her story has a happy ending, but you'll have to read it for yourself! The short story that follows is one she wrote and kindly sent to us. I wanted to share it with you because I know there are others out there who can relate to Gayleen's experience.



When a stranded baby seal pup mysteriously appeared on our beach last Tuesday afternoon I called every emergency number on the planet until I was led to Danae at the Port Townsend Marine Science Center, in charge of monitoring baby seal pups. Danae explained how important it was that I follow the hardest advice imaginable: protect and guard the area with signs, watch the pup and... whether its mother returns from her feeding and carries it to safety or not and it dies, I could do nothing except hope, wait, and watch. It looked so vulnerable looking out at the water and crying for its mother, just lying there waiting for her to return. Only 50% survive. At sunset Wednesday night and still no signs of its mother as it waited facing the ocean and crying, I watched an eagle slowly circle the baby pup, and remembered her words, eagles depend on pups for nourishment. I could not intervene. Thursday morning when I forced myself the courage to check for his tiny body, he was gone! No signs of a struggle, he was gone as secretly as he'd appeared. Wherever you are, Mother Seal, thank you. And, a special thank you, Danae, for your guidance and compassion.



A word from the PTMSC Marine Mammal Stranding Network

Thank you Gayleen for sharing your story! Seal pup season brings a mixed bag of emotions. The babies are undeniably adorable with their big eyes and furry little bodies, making it impossible not to fall in love. Watching them wiggle around on the beach is both cute and hilarious. But there is a dark side to the seal pup season... as Gayleen mentioned in her story above, only 50% of harbor seal pups survive their fist year. Harbor seal populations have recovered to a healthy number, thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, but that does not mean it is easy to handle the loss of a seal pup. 

So what should you do if you encounter a seal pup on the shore? The best thing you can do is give the animal space. Mothers often leave their pups on shore to rest. Adult seals are wary of people, so mom will wait until all disturbances are gone before reuniting with and nursing her pup (Gayleen waited two days!). Encourage people to "Share the Shore" by staying back 100 yards, if possible. Do not attempt to move, feed, pick up, or pour water on a seal pup. Please call the PTMSC Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 360-385-5582 x 103  for guidance or to report a dead, injured or stranded marine mammal. 


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently released a short, two-page flyer with FAQs about harbor seal pups. It is loaded with great information (and is free of scientific jargon). To view the flyer please click HERE! You can put the flyer on your refrigerator, share it with your friends and relatives, enclose it with your holiday cards, or have it screen printed on your t-shirt or pillow case. Whatever method you choose, please spread the word about harbor seal pups. 

Enjoy those sandy beaches and rocky tide-pools this summer and remember to Share the Shore!  



View our new and improved webpage here
Also, check out our Marine Mammal Guide here 




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