Ashley Stokes | Marine Mammal Rescue Manager
Harbor seals typically give birth during the months of May and June but occasionally pupping season begins early due to warmer water temperatures. Also, just like other mammals, some harbor seals will give birth to their pup prematurely. Last year we responded to our first premature pup on April 23rd. Though we have not responded to any pups yet this season, our Massachusetts colleagues have already picked up two premature pups (in photo) who where brought to the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay for rehabilitation because they were abandoned by their moms.
Because we are on the brink of pupping season, the chance of seeing a seal on the beach, especially a newborn pup, increases. It is extremely important to abide by federal regulations and keep back from the (live or dead) animal and report it to the Marine Mammal Rescue (MMR) hotline at 603-997-9448 so a team can be sent out.
“Harbor seal pups are only with mom between 21-28 days. The bonding and skills they learn during that short time are extremely vital to the pup’s survival,” said MMR manager Ashley Stokes. “The mother will leave her pup on the beach while she feeding and it is critical that we give the pup space so the mother is will to return. Otherwise, the pup will be abandoned and will not survive on its own.”
What to do if you spot a marine mammal on shore in New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts:
- Call the Seacoast Science Center’s 24-hour Marine Mammal Rescue hotline at 603-997-9448
- Report the exact location, if its 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 126 cases in 2016: 119 seals (106 harbor, 5 gray, 5 harp, 3 unknown species), and 7 cetaceans (3 harbor porpoise, 2 common dolphins, 1 humpback whale, and 1 unknown species).
Marine mammal rescue organizations can apply for limited federal assistance through the John H. Prescott grant fund, however, the federal budget for that program has been reduced. That means the organizations must raise the funds to meet operating costs on their own. We are counting on our community help to make our rescue and education efforts possible. Any amount helps, so please consider giving what you can.