Cute, cuddly, costly: The seal pups are back on Whidbey Island

Courtesy photo from Mary Jo Adams. - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo from Mary Jo Adams.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

It’s seal pup season on Whidbey Island, which means sightings of big round eyes and soft fur coats. From their adorable appearance, it seems seal pups are begging to be fawned over. But before approaching one of the little guys, consider this: interfering with, harassing, possessing or even simply feeding a seal pup is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the maximum penalty is a hefty $100,000 fine and a year behind bars.

Susan Berta of the Orca Network said there have been several violations of the Protection Act in Island County and that currently her organization is busy responding to calls on seal pups.

“Every year we have people who either get too close to a pup, touch or pet it, or try to ‘help’ it by pouring water on it, trying to feed it, etc.,” Berta said. “Unfortunately it happens quite often.”

According to the National Marie Fisheries Service, there are a few guidelines people should follow regarding baby seals. First, always stay a minimum of 100 yards away from pups and keep pets out of the area. Second, it takes an undisturbed observation of between 24 and 48 hours to determine if a pup is being attended to by its mother. If after 48 hours the mother hasn’t returned, or if the pup is visually injured, NMFS says to report it by calling 1-866-ORCANET.

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