Keep Your Distance During Harbor Seal Pupping Season


For the next few months, the north coast is going to be the birthplace of scores harbor seal pups. 

“They are the only species of pinnipeds which are any kind of seal or sea lion that are actually born on our beaches here, “Karen Helms, Executive Director of the North Coast Marine Mammal Center said. “All the other species are born a little further north or a little further south. I mean, down in Eureka, we get a lot of animals from places like Big Lagoon and Samoa Beach, up here in Crescent City. We see a lot of animals up near the mouth of the Smith River, harbor seal pupping season typically starts sometime in March and it usually ends no later than maybe June.”

But just because you might come across these marine mammals, doesn’t mean you are allowed to get close to it. 

“They’re adorable and hard to resist, they’re not too much larger than a football […] only covered with creamy white fur or gray and spotted fur with flippers,” Helms said. “And you may come across one alone on the beach, it is absolutely normal for them to be alone on the beach […] Mom leaves them to go forage for fish, and so just because they’re alone does not mean they’ve been abandoned,  if she sees people too close when she returns, it may cause her to abandon her pup.”

The NOAA Marine Protection Act states you must be at least the distance of one football field away from marine mammals. But Karen Helms says sometimes, that may not be the case at some of our local beaches, so it’s best to  stay at least 100 feet away.  

“The rule of thumb is that if you are close enough for that animal to be reacting to your presence in any way, you’re too close,” Helms said. 

And if you and your dog happen to come across a seal pup on the beach, make sure to place a leash on your dog. 

“Every year we take in several pups that have been victims of off leash dog attacks on the beach,” Helms said. “So it’s really important to keep your dogs on a leash for the safety of these little newborn babies.”

And if you are concerned about a seal pup or any marine mammal, call the North Coast Marine 

“Don’t ever try to push a marine mammal back into the water. A lot of times people do more harm than good by doing so,” Helms said. “And so that’s why it’s important that you call us so that we can go out and assess the animal.”