OLD ORCHARD BEACH, Maine —
Seeing a seal on a Maine beach is a rare treat for any beach-goer.
But while it may be exciting to catch an up-close glimpse of these adorable mammals, it can actually be dangerous for them. Marine Mammals of Maine wants to send a clear message about what NOT to do.
They wrote about the journey of one young harbor seal pup, only a month old, in social media post Monday night that has now been shared thousands of times.
The seal pup was first spotted Monday, July 1, at Old Orchard Beach. Dominque Walk of Marine Mammals of Maine says seals are only semi-aquatic animals, spending time on land resting and getting their body temperature up is completely normal.
"Unfortunately a lot of well-meaning people were just not understanding that its a natural process for them and trying to return him to the water," Walk explains.
The seal was dragged with bare hands into the water. He then resurfaced at Bayview Beach in Saco where again he was spotted and dragged into the ocean. Finally, he made one more attempt to rest, stopping at Pine Point in Scarborough and with luck against him he was thrice thrust into the water all within a span of a few hours Monday afternoon.
Walk says each time the seal pup emerged on a beach MMoME was called but before a volunteer could reach the seal to assess his health, he was dragged into the water. Experts were able to tell from its markings in pictures taken by beach-goers that it was the same seal.
Walk took to MMoME's Facebook page Monday night writing about the seals' journey and explaining clearly that it is illegal to approach a marine mammal within 150 feet and that the best thing to do if you think a seal or other marine mammal is in need of help is to call their hotline at 1-800-532-9551.
"They don’t eat Rice Krispie treats," Walk offered some sage seal advice in her post saying a seal that washed up in Rockland was recently offered the sugary treat.
"Even the act of offering seals any kind of food is really stressful for them," Walk explains and that stress can impair their health and even cause death.
Walk understands that it is natural for people to want to help but as in the case of the seal who tried to rest on three different beaches, your help could be causing harm.
As for the fate of the tired seal pup, experts are unsure. MMoME has not had any other reports of the seal resurfacing but they hope he was able to find a quiet place to rest. The one-month-old seal is in the process of learning to hunt as it has recently been weaned from its mother and Walk says it is a stressful time for pups.
Seals act as important bioindicators and when they come ashore and are tracked and researched they can provide insight into the health of Maine oceans and even fisheries that many Maine people rely on.
Staff at Marine Mammals of Maine say they have been very hopeful as the post has been shared close to 7,000 times and they hope by spreading information Mainers and tourists who enjoy state beaches will learn to observe and enjoy seals and other marine mammals without interfering.