Harbor seals bear their young during the months of May and June. As a result, the chance of seeing seals on our beaches, and more specifically seal pups, increases. If you see a seal on the beach, it is important to keep back and call the Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue (MMR) hotline at 603-997-9448 for any marine mammal hauled out on the shore in New Hampshire, alive or dead.
“It is vital that we do not interrupt the important bond being formed between a mother seal and her pup during this time,” said MMR Coordinator Ashley Stokes. “The mother seal may leave her pup on the beach while she is off feeding and it is critical that we give the pup space so the mother is will to return to it.”
Seals are only semi-aquatic, meaning that it’s normal for them to spend time hauled out on land. But there are times when a marine mammal comes up on shore because it is sick or injured. “We recover, gather data on, and record photos of deceased animals to monitor causes of mortalities (natural or human caused) that could pose health risks to marine mammal populations, people or pets. This is why it is important that beachgoers call our hotline as soon as an animal is spotted.”
What to do if you spot a marine mammal on shore in New Hampshire:
- Call the Seacoast Science Center’s 24-hour Marine Mammal Rescue hotline at 603-997-9448
- Report the exact location, if it’s live or dead, and details about it’s size, coloring, and behavior
- Always maintain a safe distance (at least 150 feet) from the animal to avoid injury to you or the animal.
The Seacoast Science Center’s MMR team responded to 146 cases in 2015: 142 seals (120 harbor, 7 gray, 11 harp, 4 unknown species), 1 common dolphin, 1 harbor porpoise, and 2 minke whales. 115 of those cases were in New Hampshire; 31 were in northern Massachusetts; a territory MMRT assists NOAA Fisheries in managing.
New Hampshire’s marine mammal rescue effort costs $80,000 on an average year and the seals can’t pay. That’s why the Center relies on contributions to keep its hotline up and team ready to respond.
To inspire others to give, New Castle residents Cyrus and Bobbie Sweet have issued a 3-year challenge in 2014: they will match every dollar that is donated to the rescue effort this year—up to $20,000! That means every dollar you give will go twice as far. To donate, click here.