“Recognize these are still wild animals; they’re not stuffed toys,” sanctuary spokeswoman Mary Jane Schramm said. “By interfering with the pup and possibly preventing it from being reunited with its mom, you could be threatening its life.”
Harbor seal pups are born in late winter and spring, usually on sandy beaches or rock reefs. Mother seals typically leave their pups unattended on beaches to feed at sea. Wildlife experts note that the presence of humans and dogs can prevent a mother seal from reuniting with its pup.
It is recommended that the public stay at least 300 feet away from the marine animals. If a pup reacts to human presence, people are advised to avoid eye contact and slowly back away. Those concerned about pups can contact the sanctuary at (415) 561-6622, ext. 200.
Roughly one-fifth of the harbor seals in California are within the sanctuary’s boundaries, Schramm said.
“It’s a sign that we do have a very healthy marine ecosystem,” she said. “But the other news is many of us are likely to go into wildlife habitat and it’s important for us to know how to behave when we do.”
People wanting to help or take close-up pictures of the pups have been an ongoing problem for a decade, Schramm said.
For those who still want to observe, she offered a suggestion: “Bring binoculars. It can be a fascinating experience, but learn, we would call it, wildlife etiquette.”