With people flocking to the outdoors for the holiday weekend, beachgoers, campers, anglers and hikers are reminded to give wild animals plenty of room.
The most recent reminder comes from NOAA Fisheries after four recent incidents in Washington and Oregon in which people illegally took harbor seal pups off the beach. That led to the death of two of the animals.
Of course, such instances are not limited to coastal encounters. A bison calf was euthanized earlier in May after it was “rescued” by a father and son. Thinking the newborn was freezing and dying, they put it in the back of their SUV and took it to rangers.
The calf was killed after it was abandoned by its herd and was creating dangerous situations by approaching people and cars along the roadway.
In a press release about the Yellowstone case, the National Park Service was blunt in calling the actions “inappropriate, dangerous and illegal behavior with wildlife.”
In the cases where people illegally picked up seal pups, one pup found at a Westport beach in May had to be euthanized. A reusable shopping bag was used to carry the pup off the beach. State wildlife officials had to euthanize the animal because it was unresponsive and lethargic.
Another of the pups later died. One pup was returned to the same location where it was picked up in the hope it could be reunited with its mother. In the fourth case, the animal was taken to a rehabilitation facility.
Staffers with NOAA Fisheries are particularly concerned because this is the time of year when harbor seal pups are born around Puget Sound and along the coast.
Federal and state wildlife officials are asking people to avoid “inappropriate, dangerous and illegal behavior with wildlife.”
Nursing pups will remain with their mothers for four-six weeks and then begin foraging on their own. Harbor seal pups may come out of the water in the same place for several days or weeks at a time, but that does not mean they have been abandoned, NOAA said in a news release.
Pups that appear to be abandoned may be resting and regulating their body temperature, or may be waiting for their mother, the release added.
Beachgoers are reminded that the way to help marine mammals on the beach is leave them alone, staying 100 yards away when possible. You will know you are too close if an animal starts to stare, fidget or move into the water.
NOAA officials said disturbing, feeding or attempting to move young seals or other marine mammals is illegal because it can stress the animals, interfere with their natural behavior and cause adult seals to abandon their pups. The same holds true for people attempting to take a selfie with a wild animal. It is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to harass marine mammals.
NOAA also has announced its Office of Law Enforcement will soon start summer patrols around the San Juan Islands to enforce regulations designed to protect endangered Southern Resident killer whales. Boaters must keep a safe distance of at least 200 yards from the whales.
Jeffrey P. Mayor: 253-597-8640
NOAA Fisheries: The federal agency has a brochure, “Share the Shore,” available at tinyurl.com/huo3xgp. NOAA also has developed an app that makes it easy to report injured or stranded marine wildlife. “Dolphin & Whale 911” is available from the App Store.
West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network: Animals that appear to be injured can be reported via a hotline at 866-767-6114.
State Department of Fish and Wildlife: The agency offers tips for responsible wildlife viewing at wdfw.wa.gov/viewing/responsible.