Stranded or Sleeping? What to Do if You Find a Harbor Seal on the Beach

Harbor Seals
Photo courtesy Harbor WildWatch)

From late June to early September, harbor seals all over the Puget Sound are giving birth to their young. While these fuzzy, Bambi-eyed babies are drop-dead adorable, it is extremely important that beach visitors give these little friends a lot of space.

If you happen upon any seals while strolling down your local beach, do not approach the animals. Instead, stay as far away as possible (100 yards is recommended) and keep your dog on a tight leash. If you need to take a picture, do so from a healthy distance.

Why should we keep our distance from harbor seals?

These amazing creatures use the beach as a place to relax, take a nap or two and regulate their body temperature. Pups depend on this resting time to sunbathe and build up their energy.

In fact, many harbor seals frequent safe, sheltered areas on the shore called “haulouts” to ensure security while they rest. Once on land, they tend to remain in one haulout site, but they stay awake and alert to scan the area for potential danger.

By approaching a harbor seal, you may scare it back into the water — interrupting its needed resting time and possibly frightening it away from that safe haulout location forever.

If you see a seal pup alone on the beach, don’t panic. Don’t approach the pup and please in no way touch it (this is against the law). While the little seal might just be taking an afternoon snooze, it could also be stranded or abandoned.

Please call the West Coast Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 866-767-6114 if you are concerned about the welfare of a seal pup or any other marine mammal.

If you would like to become more involved with keeping harbor seals safe, you can tell your friends, family and even new beach acquaintances about the importance of giving harbor seals their space.

You can also visit to learn more about becoming a NOAA trained volunteer who actively walks beaches to keep humans and other animals away from resting seals.

Harbor seals are just one of the many wonderful creatures that inhabit the Puget Sound but for their safety and well-being, our admiration should be one from afar.