Back Away From the Pups

If you touch them they could die

Tuesday, Feb 10, 2009  |  Updated 11:45 AM PDT
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Back Away From the Pups

AP

They are cute as all get out, but if you touch them it could be fatal.

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Marine wildlife officials are advising the public that getting too  close to federally protected seal pups on Bay Area beaches can harm the  newborn mammals and can result in legal penalties against the person  disturbing them.

Biologists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric  Administration's Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary made the  request in an announcement this week, saying the pups are born each year in  late winter and early spring.

Disturbing newborn seal pups, often left unattended by their  mothers for brief periods, could result in pup deaths and contribute to lower  birthrates and reduced habitat use, sanctuary officials said.

Humans sometimes mistake the pups for orphans and approach them to  try to help, but officials caution that humans and dogs should stay away.

"The rule of thumb is, if a seal reacts to your presence, you're  too close," marine sanctuary biologist Jan Roletto said.

About one-fifth of California's harbor seals live in the  Farallones sanctuary, whose largest breeding grounds are near Bolinas Lagoon  and Tomales Bay in west Marin County, according to the NOAA.

For more information or to report an injured animal, contact the  Marine Mammal Center at 415 289-SEAL, Pt. Reyes National Seashore at 415-464-5170 or Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary at 415-561-6622.

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