New Hampshire wildlife officials are reminding residents that picking up young creatures is both illegal and potentially harmful.
Ashley Stokes heads the Marine Mammal Rescue program for the Seacoast Science Center in Rye. She says only those with special permits can care for wildlife, because improper care can harm or kill wildlife. But some individuals who encounter young harbor seals alone on New Hampshire beaches try to help anyway.
“Things like pouring water on the animal, forcing it back into the water,” Stokes says. “Sometimes people will offer them tuna fish or go to the fish market and buy fish.”
Stokes says, in most cases, the mother seal is actually nearby. But if humans linger in the area, she may see them as a threat. “If people are around and the mother sees a threat on the beach, eventually she does give up and separates from the pup,” Stokes says. “These are animals that won’t survive without the mom, so it’s important people keep away from them.”
The state Fish and Game Department says it's taken numerous reports from people who have picked up the creatures, incorrectly thinking they are orphans.
Officials say residents who suspect an animal is injured or orphaned should notify Fish and Game or other authorities rather than try to offer their own assistance.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.