Grey Seal. photo credit: Jill Bednar
Grey Seal. photo credit: Jill Bednar
Grey Seal.  photo credit: Jill Bednar

Officials Remind People to Stay a Safe Distance from Beached Animals

Brigantine, New Jersey – We are well into seal season and officials with the Marine Mammal Stranding Center are reminding people to stay a safe distance away from any seals they may encounter on our local beaches.  Recently there have been several cases of people and their dogs getting far too close to seals, endangering the seals and themselves. Seals are Federally-protected animals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Under this law it is illegal to disturb a seal’s natural behaviors. Seals haul out on land to get much-needed rest after hunting and swimming long distances.

The presence of people and dogs nearby causes stress and may force a seal back into the water before it is ready. Over the past week several amateur and professional photographers have been flooding social media groups with photos and videos of seals taken at a close distance, revealing exact locations of resting animals on the beach. This has attracted crowds around resting seals, causing further disturbance and harassment of the animals. A video has even surfaced of someone touching a seal. Several healthy seals have had to be relocated to remote beaches by officials at the MMSC due to the harassment by people and off-leash dogs.

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Currently, the Center is caring for two seals at the Brigantine facility.  While it’s not uncommon to have seals coming into the MMSC this time of year, Founding Director Bob Schoelkopf says that as of right now, they are rehabilitating less seals than average for this time of year, but are responding to significantly more calls for sightings. With the recent break in the weather enticing more people to enjoy the beach, the Center is anticipating calls to increase. With more people on the beach, the seals are at risk of disturbance.

It is important to remember seals are predators with sharp teeth and will not hesitate to bite, and seals carry communicable diseases that can be passed on to you or your dog. If you spot a seal or other marine mammal on the beach, you should:

  • Contact the MMSC immediately by calling (609) 266-0538
  • Stay at least 150 feet away from the animal (the length of three school buses)
  • Keep dogs away from the animal
  • Never post locations of seals on social media

For over four decades, The Marine Mammal Stranding has been the only organization in New Jersey dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of sick and injured marine mammals.  To date, staff and volunteer from the MMSC have responded to more than 5,600 calls for seals, dolphins, whales and sea turtles that washed ashore along all of New Jersey’s beaches.  The non-profit is only able to do this important work thanks to the support of the community and generous donations.  To learn more about the MMSC or to donate, please visit https://mmsc.org/


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