It’s a natural human instinct to try to help animals that appear to be in distress, but for seals, human interaction is very problematic, advised Sarah Lucchessi of Marine Mammals of Maine (MMoME) at a Boothbay Harbor Memorial Library talk on Aug. 3.
In late summer, “pup season,” seals on beaches may be resting or young ones may be waiting for mom to return from fishing. It’s normal for seals to be out of the water.
Marine Mammals of Maine, with two staffers and 80 volunteers, rescues around 300 stranded marine mammals and sea turtles a year, and, if needed, provides expert short-term care and transport to a rehabilitation facility.
If you see a seal on the beach or shoreline, here are some tips:
--Keep people and dogs at least 150 away from the seal. If a mother seal sees people near her pups, she will not return. Seals will bite dogs.
--Call the MMoME 24/7 hotline, 1-800-532-9551. Maine police officers can connect callers to the hotline.
--Do not feed or handle the seal. It is illegal to touch, feed, disturb or harass marine mammals.
--Do not return the seal to the water or pour water on it.
--Remove trash, plastic bags, balloons and fishing gear from beaches to prevent it from washing out to sea and endangering marine life.
MMoME’s non-profit triage center in Harpswell covers roughly 2,500 miles of coastal Maine, including islands, from Kittery to Rockland and relies almost entirely on donations. To learn more about their work to help stranded seals, whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles, visit www.mmome.org or call 207-833-3312.
Glenda C. Booth