Whelping season for harbor seals expected to start this month

RYE — Harbor seals bear their young from late April to June. The majority of puppies in the area were born in Maine; however, there are also small ones in southern Maine. Therefore, the chance of seeing seals on our beaches, specifically baby seals, increases. If you see a marine mammal on the beach, alive or dead, it is extremely important to keep a distance of 150 feet and call the Seacoast Science Center Marine Mammal Rescue Hotline at 603-997-9448 (for a location from Essex, Mass., to the Maine border).

“Harbour seal pups are only with their mothers for 21 to 28 days. It is extremely critical that the bond and important life-learning processes that occur between a mother seal and her pup during this time remain unbroken. said Ashley Stokes, director of Marine Mammal Rescue. “Newborn puppies are not great swimmers and tire quickly, so the mother will sometimes leave her pup on the beach, while she is feeding. Give that pup the space it deserves will ensure that the mother will return to care for him.If the puppy is approached or the mother sees danger nearby, it will lead to abandonment of the puppy.

Seals are semi-aquatic, which means it is normal for them to spend time on land. However, sometimes a marine mammal comes ashore because it is sick, injured or abandoned. “Once we receive a report of an animal, we immediately dispatch a team member to assess the animal. Signs and a security perimeter are established while monitoring a live animal to determine if intervention is warranted. necessary,” said Stokes.

“We collect morphometric data and photos on all animals, living and dead, which are entered into a national database managed by the federal government. Dead animals of scientific value are transported to the laboratory for a full post-mortem examination to determine what may have caused the animal’s death and to monitor health trends. This is why it is important that bathers call our hotline as soon as an animal is spotted.

What to do if you see a marine mammal on the shore:

  • Call the Seacoast Science Center’s 24-hour Marine Mammal Rescue Hotline at 603-997-9448
  • Report the exact location, whether it’s alive or dead, and details about its size, color, and behavior
  • Always maintain a safe distance (at least 150 feet; approximately 4 school bus lengths) from the animal to avoid undue stress.

In 2021, the Centre’s MMR team responded to 136 marine mammal cases (70 alive and 66 deceased). Among them, 126 pinnipeds (seals) and 10 cetaceans (porpoises, dolphins, whales). The species distribution is as follows: 90 harbor seals, 22 gray seals, 12 harp seals, two unknown seal species, four harbor porpoises, three common dolphins, two minke whales and one unknown cetacean species.

The Seacoast Science Center Marine Mammal Rescue Team must be ready and equipped to respond not only to the average number of cases expected each year, but also to emergency situations such as a large whale stranding or a mortality event. unusual, and relies heavily on community support to do so. .

You can keep up to date with the work of the MMR team on the SSC Marine Mammal Rescue Facebook page. For more information about the Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue Program and to donate, visit seacoastsciencecenter.org.