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Storm brings more seals onto Mass. beaches, but don't disturb them, aquarium says

The recent nor'easter caused intense waves and flooding, affecting how the local seals can rest, experts said.
seal, massachustts seal, resting seal, seals massachusetts beaches, storms
A harp seal visiting Massachusetts from Canada for the winter seems to strike a familiar nap pose with an ice block as a pillow. Credit: New England Aquarium

Seals are pretty cute, but if you see one lying on a Massachusetts beach, please don’t disturb it, the New England Aquarium is warning residents.

After a seal pup was recently found on a New Hampshire road, the aquarium is reminding people that weather events like the intense coastal storm that battered New England last weekend don’t just affect people.

The pup was found more than a third of a mile from the coast in Seabrook, New Hampshire, reportedly washed in with high tides. The animal has since been brought to the National Marine Life Center in Bourne, Mass. and named Saco.

Saco is being treated for dehydration and hypoglycemia, the center said on Facebook, “seemingly exhausted from fighting the recent nor'easter.”


That storm causes extreme wave surges and coastal flooding into the areas where seals often rest. Though Saco’s situation was “an extreme event” the aquarium said, residents may be seeing more seals hanging out on beaches because of the weather.

“Young seals are much more likely to be found on beaches over the next few days trying to catch up on their lost sleep. A normal part of seal behavior is to haul out of the water to rest. But with massive surf and tidal surges, most of their preferred nap locations have been underwater for days,” the aquarium said in a post. “Just like kids, young seals need more rest than adults, and they can seemingly fall asleep anywhere, including prominent beach locations that might be frequented by winter beach walkers.”

Though you may want to go up to some seals on Massachusetts beaches, do not disturb them, the aquarium warns — it causes stress to the seals and harassing marine mammals is also prohibited by federal law.

“They are enormously cute, and people are often filled with an overwhelming desire to help, but the vast majority of the time what they need most is valuable rest and to be left alone by humans,” the post continues. “Our visible presence is ALWAYS stressful to a young seal that is struggling to survive.”

People should stay at least 150 feet away from seals, be quiet while on the beaches and leash their dogs.

If you are concerned about if a seal may have health problems, you can note its location, size, any obvious injuries and try to take pictures from a safe distance.

If an animal appears to be in distress or is being harassed, experts advise you call your local marine animal rescue team. For beaches from Plymouth to Salem, call the New England Aquarium’s stranding hotline at 617-973-5427.

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