Update on Edmonds

seal pupBy Jennifer Leach, Environmental Education and Sustainability Coordinator

It’s pupping season for harbor seals in Puget Sound. Harbor seals in our area are born in late June through September. Typically born at low tide, seal pups are able to swim at birth and will follow their mother back to sea on the returning tide. Pups stay with their mothers for up to six weeks before they are weaned to forage on fish, octopus, squid, and crustaceans like shrimp.

Seal pups spend long periods of time out of the water to rest and warm up. If a pup is still nursing, its mother will remain at sea to forage while the pup waits for her to nurse. Because they spend so much time alone on shore, pups are easily mistaken as abandoned or in distress. Well-meaning beach-goers may go so far as to try to help the pup by offering it food or trying to put it back into the water. If a pup’s mother is in the area and sees human activity around her pup, she may permanently abandon it, so it’s important to keep your distance.

So what should you do if you find a seal pup on the beach? First, give the pup plenty of space. The National Marine Fisheries Service recommends keeping at least a 100-foot distance from the seal – it’s also the law under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes it a crime to approach, harass, or otherwise disturb a marine mammal. Then call Sno-King Marine Mammal Response at 206-695-2277. Their volunteers will help maintain the appropriate distance between onlookers and the seal by cordoning off the area. You can also flag down a Beach Ranger-Naturalist on duty; our Rangers will be on patrol every day through Labor Day weekend.

Remember that all of Edmonds beaches are designated as Marine Sanctuaries. That means that among other measures designed to protect wildlife within the sanctuary, dogs are not allowed anywhere along the shoreline except within the Edmonds Off Leash Dog Area at the south end of Marina Beach Park.

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