The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warns beachgoers against approaching baby seals for photographs.
It's that time of the year again when seals give birth to their pups off the New England coast. Seal mothers often leave their pups on beaches for several hours to up to a day to go look for food. Beachgoers often mistakenly think that seal pups hanging out by themselves on the beach have been abandoned. Thus, people try to rescue seal pups who are simply waiting for their mothers to get back.
Baby seals are also prime selfie material. A photo of yourself with a cute little seal pup is sure to get those Instagram likes come pouring in. However, approaching or touching a seal pup can be dangerous not just for humans but for the pup itself.
Recently, video footage of a sea lion snatching a little girl off a ledge and into the water made rounds on the Internet. If nothing else, this incident with the sea lion is a prime example of why people need to be wary around wild animals.
NOAA warns the public that “there is no selfie stick long enough” to allow people to safely take photos with seal pups. The agency claims to have received several reports of seals injuring humans who have gotten too close for comfort. NOAA recommends that people should stay at least 150 feet sway from seals.
A wild animal may feel threatened or harassed when people get too close to it. The stress can thus make the animal lash out or behave unpredictably. This can cause injuries or distress (for both humans and animals), or may place people in precarious situations.
In the case of baby seals, proximity to humans may lead to abandonment. We may not see seal mothers out in the ocean, but they may see us approaching their pups. If seals see humans in close proximity to their pups, they may feel threatened and abandon their pups. Thus, what may be a simple selfie with a cute little seal pup may actually be a threat to the pup's survival.
NOAA stresses that humans as well as pets need to stay away from baby seals on the beach. This way, seal mothers won't feel like they can't return to their pups. This will also reduce the chances of getting injured by seals.
Not only is approaching seals and other wild marine animals dangerous, it's can also actually be illegal. Authorities in the US can consider approaching a wild animal harassment, which is illegal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. If your actions have the potential to disturb, injure, or put an animal in danger, they fall under the category of harassment. Thus, it's best to leave wild animals alone to avoid trouble.
So remember: baby seals aren't necessarily in distress of you find them alone. They may just be waiting for their mothers to come back from hunting for food. If you think that an animal is in distress, don't take matters into your own hands. Instead, call the relevant authorities in your area.
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