Sometimes you’re surprised at what people have to be told not to do, but it bears pointing out: “Don’t touch the seals.”
That’s the stern message for people along the Jersey Shore, whom experts say have been moving and harassing seals at an alarmingly high rate this year.
“For some reason, it's been worse than previous years,” said Bob Schoelkopf, director of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center. “But the strange thing is that we had less seals this year than we have in other years, and yet the harassment by humans has become greater than we've ever seen before.”
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A video sent to the center shows one seal resting on a rock as a person stretches a hand toward the animal – causing it to try and move its head away – before the person repeatedly touches the seal’s flailing flipper.
That’s not just annoying to the seal, but also dangerous to you, since the federally protected mammals may not hesitate to bite and often carry diseases.
And yeah, we get it, seals are cute and a little silly – especially when they strike their “banana pose” – but you’re still not supposed to touch them, let alone move them. You may think you’re doing a good deed by trying to move a seal from the beach, but it likely had just stopped to rest and now you’re bothering it.
That was the case for one young gray seal in Margate. Jacob Sless said his friend saw some people pick up the animal and try to move it to the water, only for it to turn around come right back to the beach.
That seal had already been moved twice in the past week because of people.
So far this year, MMSC staffers have relocated 10 healthy seals in numerous towns along the Jersey Shore after people, some with pets, didn’t give them enough space.
When you come across a seal, experts say you should stay at least 150 feet away. And, Schoelkopf added, don’t post the animal’s location on social media because it could encourage more people to go and bother it.
Also, heed Sless’ advice: “When you when you see a marine mammal, especially a seal on the beach, keep your distance.”