When will we finally learn to leave wild animals alone? Even when we have the best intentions, handling wild animals should only be left to the professionals. This reality was made abundantly clear in a recent case involving a seal pup.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a harbor seal pup was carried off a Washington state beach in a reusable shopping tote by a woman who assumed the animal was abandoned. After realizing that she had no knowledge of how to help the young seal, she contacted the Westport Aquarium … but it was already too late. The pup was barely responsive by the time aquarium director, Marc Myrsell, arrived at the woman’s house. Myrsell explained to ABC News Today, “Usually these animals will snap and struggle to get away if you try to approach them, but this pup was so lethargic… [putting] him in the carrier to take him to a center was like picking up a sleeping human baby.”
While the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife had planned to return the pup to the beach, the seal was too far gone and they decided the best thing to do would be to euthanize it. Had they been called in time to help the poor little pup sooner, they could have helped reintroduce the pup back to the wild, but the fact that he had been taken off the beach would have likely made this a difficult task. Moving wild animals from their habitat is a dangerous game as it causes a lot of stress. It is possible this seal’s mother would have actually abandoned the pup if she was aware of the situation in the hopes of avoiding human threat.
As NOAA explains, the best thing we can do to help marine mammals is not to carry them away to help, like this woman did, but to “leave them alone, staying 100 yards away, if possible.” The best course of action is always to call in a professional before acting in any way.
Unlike the recent trend of humans forcing wild animals to pose for photos, it seems that this incident was an unfortunate circumstance of ignorance. Had this woman known the right course of action to take, she could have saved this poor seal pup’s life. If you ever come across a marine animal that appears to need help, please contact one of these hotlines. Please, for the sake of their lives, leave it to the professionals.
Image source: Westport Aquarium/ABC