Don’t approach those cute seals, says NOAA

MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — Mystic Aquarium is the only agency in the region allowed to respond to stranded seals.

Currently, there are six at the aquarium who were transported here because they were injured or sick. The animals are gray and harp seals. There aren’t any harbor seals yet but the aquarium may start to see the species soon now that it’s breeding season.

“They’re going to be very approachable,” said Skip Graf of Mystic Aquarium. “They’re very cute, they’re very small, so people do feel that need to walk up to them.”

But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has put out an advisory, saying that’s the last thing they want. Not only will you violate federal law but you could put the animals in danger.

“When those animals are approached, mom will abandon the pup if she feels threatened,” Graf said. “We can care for the animals here and we definitely will take care of abandoned pups, but mom’s milk is the best thing for that animal.”

And it’s the seal’s best chance for survival. Graf said the mothers may leave the pup on the beach while she swims around looking for food but that doesn’t mean it’s abandoned.

While harbor and gray seals are local, 90 percent of the harbor pups will be born in the gulf of Maine. Still, some will make their way down to Connecticut and could make their way onto a beach near you. It’s okay to enjoy the sight – but from a distance.

“We’ve been coming to the beach for 50 years and I’ve never seen them but I will be looking out for them,” said Marilyn Rubin of Waterford, who added that she’ll take heed of NOAA’s warning and give the seals their space.

Some interesting facts about harbor seals, from NOAA:

  • You can see harbor seals on the north, east, and west coasts of North America.
  • Some harbor seals live, year round, in a few inland lakes and rivers in Canada.
  • Harbor seals tend to stay close to land, one of the reasons for this is so they can haul out and be warmed by the sun.
  • The harbor seal pups will more than double their weight in the first month
  • Within an hour of birth, most harbor seal pups can crawl and swim.
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