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.
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.