Coming Soon: Seal Pupping Season
March 13, 2013
A few weeks ago, a harbor seal pup was born on the beach at the bottom of 5th Street in Pacific Grove. Cute and cuddly and apparently alone, the pup inadvertently gathered some well-meaning attention. According to University of California Professor Emeritus and Pacific Grove local John Pearse, someone walked down to the beach, picked up the pup, and brought it to the adjacent recreation trail.
“[The Marine Mammal Center] sent some people out, got it, and the last I heard it was doing fine,” reports Pearse. “However, the well-meaning person should have left the pup on the beach for the mother -- I gather she was in the water next to the beach watching her pup being "rescued"!”
According to Pearse, the 5th Street pup may herald an early pupping season, or it may simply be a fluke. But its birth has spurred Pacific Grove to action; the city is extending the fence around the 5th Street beach, and posting warning signs about disturbing the seals.
Bay Net docent Thom Akeman points out that people should always stay away from the harbor seals, regardless of season. For one thing, the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 makes it illegal to disturb them in any way. Additionally, approaching a seal can have side effects.
“A well meaning person can have dramatic and adverse effects on the health of a pup just by getting close,” says Lisa Emanuelson, who coordinates the Bay Net volunteers, “not to mention picking one up!”
But just because Monterey Bay visitors can’t touch the seals doesn’t mean they can’t observe pupping season up close.
“To the best of my knowledge, the very best place to see seal pupping and nurturing along the California coast is right here at Hopkins [Marine Station],” says Akeman. “A permanent fence separates people along the Coastal Trail from the seals on their favorite beach. The people can’t get the seals there and the seals have generally learned to tolerate the people because they know they are safely at a distance.”
Pupping season extends until late May.
Photo Credit: Chris Patton