Leave Seals Be: Call The Marine Mammal Center at (415) 289-SEAL

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Rescue center headquartered in Sausalito, CA reminds people to Leave Seals Be when they spot a harbor seal pup in distress during the annual pupping season.

Fireman Phil the harbor seal rests at The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, CA.

“Our mission is to expand knowledge about marine mammals, their health, and that of their ocean environment, as well as to inspire their global conservation,” said Jeff Boehm, executive director of The Marine Mammal Center.

The Marine Mammal Center reminds people along the California coast to Leave Seals Be and give harbor seal pups a chance by not picking them up or disturbing them. The Leave Seals Be public education campaign encourages people to keep their distance when they see a sick or abandoned seal pup, and to take action by calling the Center's 24-hour response hotline at (415) 289-7325 or 289-SEAL. The Center can then monitor the pup to see if the mother returns and conduct a rescue if needed.

"Our mission is to expand knowledge about marine mammals, their health, and that of their ocean environment, as well as to inspire their global conservation," said Jeff Boehm, executive director of The Marine Mammal Center. "By rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured marine mammals, such as these vulnerable harbor seal pups, we also improve our understanding of the health of the oceans and, ultimately, inspire action and foster stewardship towards the care of our environment."

Sometimes members of the public mistakenly believe that they are helping a pup when they move it. Actually, this action is more harmful to the pup than good. The best thing to do to help an animal in distress is to call The Marine Mammal Center (415) 289-7325 or 289-SEAL. Trained volunteers can then assess the situation to see if the pup needs to be rescued. In many cases, the pup may be put under observation on the beach for 24-48 hours to see if the mother will return. This observation period is vital as the mother may be nearby waiting for a chance to get back to her pup. The Center never removes a pup from its mother during this critical nursing period unless it's apparent the mother is no longer around and the animal is weak and ill. There's nothing better for a pup than the antibodies and nutrition the mother's milk provides, and this is an extremely important time in a young animal's development. In addition, it is illegal and punishable by law to pick up, handle or disturb any marine mammal under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, and only trained, authorized responders, like volunteers and staff at the Center, are allowed to do so.

What to do if you come across a sick or abandoned seal on a beach:
If you come across a harbor seal pup or any marine mammal that appears to be in distress between Sonoma and Mendocino County down to northern Santa Barbara county coastlines, please take the following actions:

  • Stay at least 50 feet away from it. The pup's mother may be nearby.
  • Do not handle it and keep other people and dogs away.
  • Call The Marine Mammal Center's 24-hour response hotline at (415) 289-7325 or 289-SEAL.

The first harbor seal pups have been admitted to the Center. Fireman Phil and Teeny Tot, as they've been dubbed, are under the Center's 24 hour care. Teeny Tot, a day-old harbor seal pup with its umbilicus still attached, was rescued at Pebble Beach in Monterey County on March 3, 2010. He was found alone, surrounded by people and dogs, as well as sea gulls. Volunteers from the Center nicknamed him Teeny Tot as he only weighed about 10 pounds. He was then brought to the Center where he was given warmth, hydration and good nutrition. Fireman Phil was rescued on February 25, 2010. He was stuck on some rocks and surrounded by people. Sporting a shiny lanugo coat signifying that he was only a few days old, Fireman Phil was the first harbor seal admitted to the Center this year.

To learn more about the Leave Seals Be campaign and how you can help marine mammal pups like Teeny Tot and Fireman Phil, visit http://www.MarineMammalCenter.org.

About The Marine Mammal Center:
The Marine Mammal Center is a nonprofit veterinary hospital, research and educational center dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of ill and injured marine mammals - primarily elephant seals, harbor seals and California sea lions - and to the study of their health. Since 1975, the Center has been headquartered in the Marin Headlands, within the Golden Gate National Parks and has rescued and treated more than 15,000 marine mammals. The Center's newly rebuilt headquarters in Sausalito gives visitors the unique opportunity to learn about marine mammals through viewing areas and educational exhibits. The hospital is open to the public daily 10 A.M.-5 P.M. except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. For more information and to sign up for the Center's eNewsletter, go to: http://www.MarineMammalCenter.org

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Jim Oswald
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