by Gina Scialabba

Rachel Loud, a volunteer at the Marine Mammal Center, feeds hungry seals. (Photo: Gina Scialabba)
Rachel Loud, a volunteer at the Marine Mammal Center, feeds hungry seals. (Photo: Gina Scialabba)

Seals and sea lions. They’re so darn cute frolicking out there in the wild. What’s not to love? They’re intelligent, playful and endearingly noisy. You almost want to cuddle with them. But DON’T. They are not your pets. That’s the message the Marine Mammal Center, headquartered in the Marin Headlands, wants the public to know.

In the spring, the center launched its annual Leave Seals Be campaign to remind people along the Central and Northern California Coast to not pick up or disturb any seals or sea lions they might encounter because the animals could be sick or injured. But the center still wants beachcombers to be aware that through July, California sea lions will be giving birth to their pups.

Around now, “The young pups may begun to forage on their own and beachgoers may come across them,” said Jim Oswald, the center’s public relations manager.

Marine mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It’s actually a crime to harm or harass these animals. Violations can come with some hefty fines.

So, what should you do if you see a marine mammal that looks in need of aid? No matter where you are, Oswald said, you should follow these tips to help a sick or injured seal or sea lion:

  • Stay at least 50 feet away from the pup. Its mother may be nearby and you’ll scare her away.
  • Do not handle touch or move the animal and keep other people and dogs away.
  • North of Santa Cruz County, call the Marine Mammal Center’s 24-hour response hotline at (415) 289-7325 or (415) 289-SEAL.
  • In Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties, call the Marine Mammal Center at (831) 633-6298.
  • In San Luis Obispo County, call the Marine Mammal Center at (805) 771-8300.

“A good rule of thumb to helping a sick or injured seal is to give it space and call our rescue line,” said Geno DeRango, stranding and rescue coordinator, at the Marine Mammal Center.

The team can then dispatch trained personnel to the area and assess the situation.

But all this is a way of letting you know that we have some awesome sounds of seals gone wild …. or just, you know, being seals …

And here’s the Leave Seals Be video …

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