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Keep a safe distance from resting seals
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GO GREEN GALLOWAY

Keep a safe distance from resting seals

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If you are strolling along the shore this winter, there is a chance you may come across a seal taking a snooze on the beach. Not to worry, this is common at this time of the year and more than likely it came ashore to replenish itself with a good rest. Seals are marine mammals and spend a large amount of time in the water hunting and swimming and spend up to a third of their life on land. Unlike dolphins and whales that live their entire lives in the water, seals do their sleeping on the beach.

If you should encounter a seal on the beach it is necessary that you give it a wide berth and stay at least 150 feet away keeping children and pets away from the animal. Seals need their rest and when humans and other animals are near they will go on alert putting unnecessary stress on the animal.

If you do encounter a seal, please call the Marine Mammal Stranding Center 24-hour hotline at 609-266-0538 to let them know that a seal is resting at a particular location. Chances are the seal just needs to rest but there may be an injury or illness that needs attention. Your call will help the Stranding Center technicians assess the situation. They may dispatch a trained volunteer to gather information on its condition and set up a perimeter to help protect it from onlookers.

Do not approach or take pictures of the seal unless asked by the Stranding Center and do not post any pictures on social media. This may encourage others to seek out the animal and cause further disturbance. Seals are federally protected wild animals. Anyone found guilty of violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act can receive a fine of up to $100,000 and one year of jail time. Posting pictures on Facebook or other media platforms can be considered harassment and a fine can be levied.

Keeping a safe distance is very important. Seals are wild animals and have very large teeth and may attack if they feel threatened. If you get too close there is a great possibility of contracting a bacterial infection or disease. Diseases such as seal pox and other pathogens can be contracted by humans and are very difficult to cure.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center has distributed several signs to shore communities to remind residents and visitors what to do when seals visit the beaches. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) donated the signs to the Stranding Center to help inform the public regarding seal regulations and viewing guidelines. The signs remind us that we share the environment with wild animals and that we have a responsibility to respect and protect them.

You can learn more about seals and other marine mammals by visiting the Marine Mammal Stranding Center at mmsc.org.

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