Harbor seal pupping season will soon be underway

Posted on April 1, 2024

Ashley Stokes | SSC Director of Marine Mammal Conservation 

If you see a seal on the beach, call the Seacoast Science Center Marine Mammal Rescue hotline at 603-997-9448​.​

Harbor seals bear their young from late-April–June. As a result, the chance of seeing seals on our beaches, more specifically dependent pups and pups newly weaned from their mothers, increases during the 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 live and dead marine mammals (seals, whales, dolphins, and porpoises) that haul out or strand on the shore in New Hampshire and northeastern Massachusetts (from Essex, MA to the Maine border.

The time during which a harbor seal pup is dependent on its mother is a critical time in its life. The mother seal will leave her pup on ​shore while she goes off to feed, as they are not great swimmers. She will then return to the beach 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.

Harbor seal pups are born in the spring and come on to the shore to rest, nurse and soak up the sun. If you see a seal on the beach, keep back and call the Seacoast Science Center Marine Mammal Rescue hotline at 603-997-9448.

Harbo Seal PupSeals are only semi-aquatic, which means it’s normal for them to spend time hauled out on land. There are times, however, when a seal strands on shore because of illness or injury. The MMR team monitors live animals and conducts health assessments, gathers data and photos on live and deceased animals, and monitors causes of mortalities (natural or human interaction) that could pose health risks to marine mammal populations, people​,​ or pets. Our team is trained, equipped, and permitted to respond to these sentinels of the sea, which is why it is important that beachgoers call our hotline as soon as a marine mammal is spotted on shore.

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 its 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 2023, Seacoast Science Center’s MMR team responded​ ​to a total of 119 marine mammal cases (65 live and 54 deceased). These include 109 pinnipeds (seals) and 10 cetaceans (porpoises, dolphins, ​and ​whales). The breakdown of species is as follows: 69 harbor seals, 32 gray seals, 7 harp seals, 1 unknown seal species, 5 harbor porpoises​​, 2 common dolphins, 1 striped dolphin, 1 minke whale, and 1 Sowerby’s beaked 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. 110-120 per year), but also emergency situations. SSC relies on support from local businesses and community members to meet its annual operating budget.

Visit Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Mammal Rescue page to learn more about the program and to donate. Keep up to date with ​MMR’s work at​ ​www.facebook.com/nhmarinemammalrescue ​​and learn more about ​MMR’s response and rescue effort​s​ at SSC’s Marine Mammal Rescue exhibit.


Seacoast Science Center will be CLOSED today: Friday, April 5, 2024. Our utilities are currently down and need to get repaired before we are able to open for visitors. Thank you for your understanding. 

CLOSED today.

Seacoast Science Center is closed today due to inclement weather.