Please Do Not Take Selfies With Seal Pups

June 8, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

Seal pups
Photo credit: Alastair Rae/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)

NOAA issues a warning.

With seal pupping season underway, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has issued a stern warning to the public: “No selfies with seals.”

Though beachgoers may be tempted to whip out their phones and selfie sticks when they spot an adorable seal pup, this can put both the seal and the photographer in danger.

The NOAA receives numerous reports each year of injuries sustained while approaching a seal for a quick photo op. Seals may become stressed or feel threatened when approached, which can cause them to act unpredictably. With their powerful jaws, things can quickly turn ugly in these situations.

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Though a mother seal will sometimes leave her pup alone on the beach for up to 24 hours while feeding, she is usually still keeping an eye her pup from a distance. If she spots a person near her pup, she might think it is unsafe to return. Mother seals are known to abandon their pups when they perceive a disturbance on the beach.

“The best thing you can do if you want to help is keep away from the animal and keep your pets away from it, so the mother has a chance to return,” says Mendy Garron, marine mammal stranding program coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region.

And if people are still not convinced to leave seal pups alone, the NOAA reminds us that approaching a wild animal can be considered harassment, which is illegal under the the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Harassment is defined as "any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance" which has the potential to injure or disturb a marine animal.

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