FORT BRAGG, CA, 4/21/2023 — Rainy days and flowers aren’t the only things spring brings — along the Mendocino Coast, it’s pupping season for harbor seals.
The Noyo Center for Marine Science shared some great info about harbor seals this week. They are the only pinniped species that give birth along our beaches and sandbars in Mendocino County — and their pups can swim right from birth. As always, if you see a marine mammal in the water or on the shore, keep a distance of at least 300 feet.
Learn what to do if you see a harbor seal pup and what makes these little guys so great in this PSA from the Noyo Center:
Harbor seal pupping season is here.
When you walk along a trail overlooking the numerous pocket beaches of our coast you may catch a glimpse of shy harbor seals (Phoca vitulina). Their habit of hauling onto land gives them an opportunity to rest, give birth and nurse their young, and warm themselves in the sun.
Harbor seals are the only pinniped to pup locally and give birth between March and June on tidal sandbars, rocky reefs and pocket beaches. They can give birth on areas that are inundated at high tide because harbor seal pups, unlike most pinniped species, can swim at birth. During the pupping season, mother seals will spend more time onshore nursing pups and resting, for an average of around 10–12 hours per day. The mother harbor seal stays with the pup almost continuously and rarely leaves the pup alone onshore. Mothers can take their pups with them when they go swimming and feeding because pups are adept swimmers.
March through July, the pupping and molting seasons, is an especially vulnerable time for harbor seals. While hiking along the shores of the Pacific during these months, you may come across a seal pup alone on the beach. It is most likely not abandoned. The mother is probably in the water nearby feeding. However, if a mother is repeatedly disturbed on a site with her pup, she may decide to abandon her pup for the safety of the water, so please be sure to stay well away from any seals you see. If you see a lone pup, do not touch, move or otherwise disturb it. It is extremely difficult to reunite a mother and her pup after the pup has been moved, and very difficult to raise a pup in captivity.
Maintain a minimum distance of 90 m (300 feet) from any marine mammal in the water or on the shore to prevent a disturbance. If your presence causes them to change their behavior, you are most likely too close.