Some of the most common questions and interactions we get this time of year have to do with observing seals, a type of marine mammal, out of the water and laying around on shore.
To some it may seem unusual to see a “marine” mammal out of the water. However, unlike dolphins and whales, seals do in fact leave the water for a variety of reasons, and it is actually critical to their survival in many cases.
Here are some important notes to keep in mind should you encounter a seal on the beach.
- It is quite normal for seals to leave the water and haul out on beaches, especially this time of year. Juvenile seals are finally hunting and surviving on their own, and the first winter can be difficult. These animals must often haul out on the sand in order to warm up, rest and conserve energy. By disturbing a resting seal, you may be putting its life at risk if it is forced back into the water when it is still weak or vulnerable.
- Seals, like all marine mammals, are Federally protected. You must keep at least 150ft away from these animals at all times, for your safety and the safety of the animal.
- The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) Marine Mammal Rescue Program can help to assess seals for any potential injuries or issues an animal may be suffering. To report an injured marine mammal or even to report sightings of healthy marine mammals, please call the IFAW Marine Mammal Hotline at 508-743-9548
- Although dogs are allowed off-leash at Sandy Neck until March 15th, it is paramount that your pets also stay at least 150ft away from any marine mammals on the beach. Seals and Dogs are closely related (Order- Caniformia) which means both animals have the potential to transmit pathogens and disease across species. For the safety of our wildlife and the safety of your pets, it is important to stay away from any interactions which could potentially put one or both parties in danger.
- While many seals, especially juveniles appear cute and friendly, approaching these animals is dangerous. Seals have a set of sharp teeth and will defend themselves if they feel threatened. A bite from a seal can easily become infected leading to long-lasting medical issues. This additional stress can also be detrimental to the animal’s overall welfare.
The winter is a wonderful time of year to walk the beaches and observe the landscapes and wildlife of Cape Cod. However, it is important that we all be considerate of the animals who are struggling to make it through a vulnerable time of the year. Please maintain a safe distance and allow these creatures to rest and recover from the harsh elements of the winter season.
Natural Resource Officer