As residents head to the region’s coastal areas for Memorial Day, authorities are cautioning beachgoers not to take selfies with seals, no matter how cute or harmless they may seem.
On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a statement instructing beach visitors that taking selfies with wildlife is dangerous both to people and animals.
Seals have powerful jaws and “can leave a lasting impression,” according to the NOAA, which added that they have received a number of reports of injuries people suffered when they tried getting too close to an animal for a photo op.
"When you get too close to a wild animal, you risk stressing or threatening it, and stressed animals are much more likely to act unpredictably," the NOAA stated, adding that "there is no selfie stick long enough!"
A seal pup may be alone on the beach while its mother feeds offshore, but if the mother sees a person close to the pup, she may decide to abandon it, thinking that it would not be safe to return, the NOAA stated. Consequences for the seal pup could be devastating.
"The best thing you can do if you want to help is keep away from the animal and keep your pets away from it, so the mother has a chance to return," Mendy Garron, a stranding program coordinator for NOAA Fisheries Greater Atlantic Region, was quoted in the release.
As a rule of thumb, stay 150 feet from a seal, the NOAA advised. The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 stipulated that "any act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance" which has the potential to injure or disturb a marine animal can be considered harassment.