Two seal pups die after being illegally removed from Washington, Oregon beaches

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Photo credit: Westport Aquarium via NOAA Fisheries

Photo credit: Westport Aquarium via NOAA Fisheries

WESTPORT, Wash. — Two seal pups have died after a rash of incidents in Washington and Oregon where people have illegally picked the animals up off the beach.

According to NOAA fisheries, the seal pictured was put in a bag and carried off the beach near Westport last month. State wildlife officials later euthanized the pup after the animal became unresponsive.

It’s just one of four recent incidents along the Northwest coast.

A second seal pup also died. Another was returned to the same location where it was picked up and a fourth pup was taken to a rehabilitation facility.

Wildlife officials are reminding beach-goers to “Share the Shore.”

“The best thing people can do to help marine mammals on the beach is to leave them alone, staying 100 yards away if possible,” said Michael Milstein, a NOAA Fisheries spokesperson. “Disturbing, feeding or attempting to move young seals or other marine mammals is illegal because it can stress the animals, interfere with their natural behavior and cause adult seals to abandon their pups. The Marine Mammal Protection Act protects all marine mammals from harassment.”

Up to half of the thousands of harbor seals born in our area may not survive their first year of life, according to NOAA. Giving them space on the beach helps ensure their best chance for survival.

“This is the time of year when harbor seal pups are born in Puget Sound and along the Washington Coast. Nursing pups remain with their mothers for four to six weeks and then begin foraging on their own. Harbor seal pups may haul out in the same place for several days or weeks at a time, but that does not mean they have been abandoned. Pups that appear to be abandoned may be resting and regulating their body temperature, or may be waiting for their mother.”

Injured animals can be reported to the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 1-866-767-6114.

Just last week, the Edmonds Police Department tweeted a photo of a baby seal on the beach with a reminder to the public not to mess with them, no matter how cute they look.

“Don’t mess with them!” the tweet says. “Mommy usually abandons them if you do. Federally protected as well.”

Hopefully, the public will do the right thing.