If you see a seal on the beach, call the Seacoast Science Center Marine Mammal Rescue hotline at 603-997-9448.
Rye, NH — Harbor seals bear their young from late-April–June. As a result, the chance of seeing seals on our beaches, more specifically seal pups, increases during the late spring and summer months. If you see a seal on the beach, keep back and call the Seacoast Science Center (SSC) Marine Mammal Rescue (MMR) hotline at 603-997-9448. MMR responds to all reports of marine mammals (seals, whales, dolphins, and porpoises) that haul out or strand on the shore in New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts (from Essex, MA to the Maine border), alive or dead.
“The time during which a harbor seal pup is dependent on its mother is a critical time in its life,” said MMR Director Ashley Stokes. “The mother often leaves her pup on the shore while she goes off to feed, before returning to nurse the pup. If she senses danger, which can be as simple as a human or dog approaching her pup, there is a strong chance that she will not return. Dependent pups cannot survive on their own.”
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 monitor live animals, gather data and photos on live and deceased animals, and monitor causes of mortalities (natural or human interaction) 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:
- Call the Seacoast Science Center 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, and to alleviate stress on the animal
In 2022, Seacoast Science Center’s MMR team responded to a total of 107 marine mammal cases (72 live and 35 deceased). These include 102 pinnipeds (seals) and 5 cetaceans (porpoises, dolphins, and whales). The breakdown of species is as follows: 46 harbor seals, 19 gray seals, 35 harp seals, 2 unknown seal species, 1 harbor porpoise, 2 Rissos dolphins, 1 bottlenose dolphin, and 1 pygmy sperm whale.
Seacoast Science Center must raise funds to operate the Marine Mammal Rescue program and be equipped to respond to not only a predicted average of cases ( approx. 110 per year), but also emergency situations. SSC relies on support from local businesses and community members to meet their annual operating budget.
For more information on Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue program and to donate, click here. Keep up to date with MMR’s work at on the SSC Marine Mammal Rescue Facebook page and learn more about MMR’s response and rescue efforts at SSC’s Marine Mammal Rescue exhibit.